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L,I  i  fLE    ESSAYS 






First  Published  1920 
Second  Impression  1921 
Third  Impression  1924 
Fourth  Impression  1931 

Printed  in  Great  Britain  by  R.  &  R.  CI.ARK,  LIMITED,  Edinburgh. 


THE  origin  and  purpose  of  this  book  can  be  briefly  stated. 
Ever  since  I  became  acquainted  with  Mr.  Santayana's 
writings,  I  have  been  in  the  habit  of  taking  up  now  and  then 
one  or  another  of  his  volumes,  finding  in  them,  among  many 
things  that,  being  no  philosopher,  I  did  not  understand, 
much  writing  like  that  of  the  older  essayists  on  large  human 
subjects,  which  seemed  to  me  more  interesting  and  in  many 
ways  more  important  than  anything  I  found  in  the  works 
of  other  contemporary  writers.  I  soon  fell  into  the  way  of 
copying  out  the  passages  that  I  liked,  and  thus  I  gradually 
formed  a  collection  of  little  essays  on  subjects  of  general 
interest — art  and  literature  and  religion,  and  the  history 
of  the  human  mind  as  it  has  manifested  itself  at  various 
times  and  in  the  works  of  different  men  of  genius.  As 
most  of  Mr.  Santayana's  books  have  not  been  reprinted 
in  England,  and  are  hardly  known  to  those  on  this  side  of 
the  Atlantic  who  might  be  interested  in  them,  it  occurred 
to  me  that  it  might  be  worth  while  to  print  these  little 
essays.  I  asked  Mr.  Santayana  if  he  would  permit  me  to 
do  this,  sending  him  my  collection  for  his  consideration 
and  possible  approval.  I  sent  it  to  him  with  some  mis 
giving,  for  I  felt  that  it  was  rather  an  impertinent  thing  to 
cut  up  the  life-work  of  a  distinguished  philosopher  into  a 
disconnected  compilation  of  "  elegant  extracts."  And  then, 
as  I  re-read  with  more  careful  attention  the  books  from 
which  I  had  been  making  excerpts,  I  came  to  see  that  there 


lay  implicit  in  the  material  something  of  far  greater  signifi 
cance,  and  that  a  much  better  use  might  be  made  of  it.  It 
became  clear  to  me  that  the  estimations  and  criticisms  I 
had  copied  out  were  not  mere  personal  and  temperamental 
insights,  but  were  bound  up  with,  and  dependent  upon, 
a  definite  philosophy,  a  rational  conception  of  the  world 
and  man's  allotted  place  in  it,  which  gave  them  a  unity 
of  interest  and  an  importance  far  beyond  that  of  any 
mere  utterances  of  miscellaneous  appreciation — any  mere 
"adventures  of  the  soul."  Mr.  Santayana  is  by  race  and 
temperament  a  representative  of  the  Latin  tradition  :  his 
mind  is  a  Catholic  one  ;  it  has  been  his  aim  to  recon 
struct  our  modern,  miscellaneous,  shattered  picture  of  the 
world,  and  to  build,  not  of  clouds,  but  of  the  materials 
of  this  common  earth,  an  edifice  of  thought,  a  fortress 
or  temple  for  the  modern  mind,  in  which  every  natural 
impulse  could  find,  if  possible,  its  opportunity  for  satis 
faction,  and  every  ideal  aspiration  its  shrine  and  altar. 
It  was  from  this  edifice  of  Reason  that  I  had  been  taking 
the  ornaments,  and  I  now  saw  the  much  greater  beauty 
they  would  have  if  they  could  appear  in  their  appropriate 
setting.  To  sift,  however,  and  rearrange  these  fragments, 
to  reconstruct  out  of  them  some  image  in  miniature  of 
the  original  edifice  from  which  I  had  detached  them,  was 
not  a  task  for  me  to  undertake — it  could  only  be  performed 
by  the  architect  of  the  original  building.  Fortunately 
I  succeeded  in  persuading  Mr.  Santayana  to  undertake 
this  task  ;  and  while,  therefore,  the  choice  of  these  little 
essays  is  largely  mine,  their  titles  and  order  and  arrange 
ment,  and  the  changes  and  omissions  which  have  been  made 
in  the  original  texts  are  due,  not  to  me,  but  to  their  author. 








3.  IDEALS 5 


5.  THE  SUPPRESSED  MADNESS  OF  SANE  MEN    .         .         8 

6.  THE  BIRTH  OF  REASON          .  .         .       10 

7.  THE  DIFFERENCE  REASON  MAKES          .        .        .12 


9.  THE  SELF •         •       *9 

10.  SELF-CONSCIOUSNESS,  VANITY,  AND  FAME        .        .       20 
n.  FALSE  MORAL  PERSPECTIVES          .  ,        .24 

12.  PAIN 27 

13.  WHAT  PEOPLE  WILL  PUT  UP  WITH        .         .         .27 

14.  ADVANTAGE  OF  A  LONG  CHILDHOOD      .        .        .28 

15.  THE  TRANSITIVE  FORCE  OF  KNOWLEDGE       .        .       29 

1 6.  KNOWLEDGE  OF  NATURE  is  SYMBOLIC  ...       30 



19.  MIND-READING •       34 



22.  LOVE 39 







24.  PROSAIC  MISUNDERSTANDINGS        .        ,         .        .51 


26.  PATHETIC  NOTIONS  OF  GOD  .         ,        .         .        .54 



29.  THE  CONVERT 60 

30.  CHRISTIAN  DOCTRINE  A  MORAL  ALLEGORY    .         .  62 






36.  PIETY 83 


38.  PRAYER 88 

39.  THE  FEAR  OF  DEATH 91 


41.  A  FUTURE  LIFE 94 

42.  DISINTERESTED  INTEREST  IN  LIFE          ...  97 

43.  PLATONIC  LOVE 100 




46.  THE  PLACE  OF  ART  IN  MORAL  ECONOMY     .        .115 

47.  RARENESS  OF  ^ESTHETIC  FEELING.        .        .        .117 




49.  UTILITY  AND  BEAUTY     .        .        .         .         .        .119 

50.  GLIMPSES  OF  PERFECTION      .        .         .  .     123 

51.  MERE  ART 125 

52.  COSTLINESS 125 

53.  THE  STARS s.        .        .126 

54.  Music 129 

55.  THE  ESSENCE  OF  LITERATURE       .         .         .         .138 

56.  THE  NEED  OF  POETRY 139 

57.  POETRY  AND  PHILOSOPHY      .         .         .         .         .140 


59.  POETRY  AND  PROSE 146 


61.  THE  SUPREME  POET      .        .        .        .        .        .153 


62.  AGAINST  PRYING  BIOGRAPHERS      .        .        .        .159 

63.  THE  DEARTH  OF  GREAT  MEN       .         .         .        ..159 

64.  THE  INTELLECT  OUT  OF  FASHION.         .         .         .163 



67.  ON  ESSE  EST  PERCIPI    .        .        .        .        .        .169 

68.  KANT     .        .        .        .        .         .        .        .         .170 



71.  UNJUST  JUDGMENTS       .        .        .        .        .        .180 

72.  MODERN  POETRY   .         .         .         .         .        .         .182 

73.  THE  UNHAPPINESS  OF  ARTISTS      .        .        .     .    »     184 

74.  POETRY  OF  LATIN  PEOPLES    .         .         .        .        -     186 

75.  DANTE 186 



76.  ABSENCE  OF  RELIGION  IN  SHAKESPEARE        .        .188 

77.  ROMANTIC  IGNORANCE  OF  SELF     .         .         .        .190 

78.  THE  BARBARIAN 191 


80.  THE  POLITICS  OF  FAUST        .        .         .        .         .196 

8 1.  EMERSON 199 

82.  SHELLEY 203 

83.  BROWNING 206 

84.  NIETZSCHE 212 


86.  HEATHENISM  . 215 


87.  MORAL  NEUTRALITY  OF  MATERIALISM          .        .223 


89.  EMOTIONS  OF  THE  MATERIALIST  .         .         .         .227 



92.  THE  TRUE  PLACE  OF  MATERIALISM     .         .        .235 

93.  INTUITIVE  MORALITY    ......     237 


95.  AUTHORITY  OF  REASON  IN  MORALS     .        .        .242 


97.  THE  LOWER  SENSES 247 

98.  PLEASURE  AND  CONSCIENCE         ....     248 

99.  THE  WORTH  OF  PLEASURES  AND  PAINS       .        .     249 

100.  THE  VOLUPTUARY  AND  THE  WORLDLING     .        .252 

10 1.  MORAL  WAR 255 

102.  ORIGIN  OF  TYRANNY    .,.,,.     259 
103*  WAR ,         .  260 



104.  PATRIOTISM  .        .        .        •                 •  •  •     23 

105.  INDUSTRIAL  IDEALISM  .        .        •   *     •  •  •     266 

1 06.  COLLECTIVISM •  .268 

107.  CHRISTIAN  MORALITY  ....  .269 


109.  POST-RATIONAL  MORALITY    .        .        .  .275 
no.  THE  NEED  OF  DISCIPLINE   .... 

in.  HAPPINESS 278 

112.  DETACHMENT 28° 

113.  THE  PROFIT  OF  LIVING       .....     282 

114.  BEAUTY  A  HINT  OF  HAPPINESS    .        .  .285 

NOTE   ,  287 




MAN  has  a  prejudice  against  himself :  anything  which 
is  a  product  of  his  mind  seems  to  him  to  be  unreal  or 
comparatively  insignificant.  We  are  satisfied  only  when 
we  fancy  ourselves  surrounded  by  objects  and  laws  inde 
pendent  of  our  nature.  We  have  still  to  recognize  in 
practice  that  from  our  despised  feelings  the  great  world 
of  perception  derives  all  its  value.  Things  are  interesting 
because  we  care  about  them,  and  important  because  we 
need  them.  Had  our  perceptions  no  connexion  with  our 
pleasures,  we  should  soon  close  our  eyes  on  this  world ; 
if  our  intelligence  were  of  no  service  to  our  passions,  we 
should  come  to  doubt,  in  the  lazy  freedom  of  reverie, 
whether  two  and  two  make  four. 

Yet  so  strong  is  the  popular  sense  of  the  unworthiness 
and  insignificance  of  things  purely  emotional,  that  those 
who  have  taken  moral  problems  to  heart  and  felt  their 
dignity  have  often  been  led  into  attempts  to  discover 
some  external  right  and  beauty  of  which  our  moral 
and  aesthetic  feelings  should  be  perceptions  or  discoveries, 
just  as  our  intellectual  activity  is  a  perception  or  discovery 
of  external  fact.  These  philosophers  seem  to  feel  that 
unless  moral  and  aesthetic  judgments  are  expressions  of 
objective  truth,  and  not  merely  expressions  of  human 
nature,  they  stand  condemned  of  hopeless  triviality.  A 
judgment  is  not  trivial,  however,  because  it  rests  on  human 
feelings  ;  on  the  contrary,  triviality  consists  in  abstrac 
tion  from  human  interests,  of  which  the  knowledge  of 
truth  is  one,  but  one  only  ;  and  the  human  judgments  and 
opinions  which  are  truly  of  little  importance  are  those 
that  wander  beyond  the  range  of  moral  economy,  or  have 



no  function  in  ordering  and  enriching  the  mind.  The 
works  of  nature  first  acquire  a  meaning  in  the  commen 
taries  they  provoke. 


ANTHROPOLOGY  is  a  matter-of-fact  record  of  the  habits 
and  passions  of  men.  It  is  not  the  expression  of  any 
ideal ;  it  does  not  specify  any  direction  in  which  it  demands 
that  things  should  move.  Yet  it  describes  the  situation 
which  makes  the  existence  of  ideals  possible  and  intelligible. 
Given  the  propulsive  energy  of  life  in  any  animal  that  is 
endowed  with  imagination,  it  is  clear  that  whatever  he 
finds  propitious  to  his  endeavours  he  will  call  good,  and 
whatever  he  finds  hostile  to  them  he  will  call  evil.  His 
various  habits  and  passions  will  begin  to  judge  one  another. 
A  group  of  them  called  vanity,  and  another  called  taste, 
and  another  called  conscience,  will  arise  within  his  breast. 
Each  of  these  groups,  in  so  far  as  they  have  not  coincided 
or  co-operated  from  the  beginning,  will  tend  to  annex  or 
overcome  the  others.  This  competition  between  a  man's 
passions  makes  up  his  moral  history,  the  growth  of  his 
character,  just  as  the  competition  of  his  ruling  interests 
with  other  interests  at  work  in  society  makes  up  his  out 
ward  career.  The  sort  of  imagination  that  can  survey 
all  these  interests  at  once,  and  can  perceive  how  they 
check  or  support  one  another,  is  called  reason  ;  and  when 
ieason  is  vivid  and  powerful  it  gives  courage  and  authority 
to  those  interests  which  it  sees  are  destined  to  success, 
whilst  it  dampens  or  extinguishes  those  others  which  it 
sees  are  destined  to  failure.  Reason  thus  establishes  a 
sort  of  resigned  and  peaceful  strength  in  the  soul,  founded 
on  renunciation  ot  what  is  impossible  and  co-operation 
with  what  is  necessary. 

Sense  and  each  of  the  passions  suffers  from  its  initial 
independence.  The  disarray  of  human  instincts  lets 
every  spontaneous  motion  run  too  far ;  life  oscillates 
between  constraint  and  unreason.  Morality  too  often 
puts  up  with  being  a  constraint  and  even  imagines  such 


a  disgrace  to  be  its  essence.  Art,  on  the  contrary,  as 
often  hugs  unreason  for  fear  of  losing  its  inspiration,  and 
forgets  that  it  is  itself  a  rational  principle  of  creation 
and  order.  Morality  is  thus  reduced  to  a  necessary  evil 
and  art  to  a  vain  good,  all  for  want  of  harmony  among 
human  impulses. 

A  creature  like  man,  whose  mode  of  being  is  a  life  or 
experience  and  not  a  congealed  ideality,  such  as  eternal 
truth  might  show,  must  find  something  to  do  ;  he  must 
operate  in  an  environment  in  which  everything  is  not 
already  what  he  is  presently  to  make  it.  If  all  ends  were 
already  reached,  and  no  art  were  requisite,  life  could  not 
exist  at  all,  much  less  a  life  of  reason.  Our  deepest  interest 
is  after  all  to  live,  and  we  could  not  live  if  all  acquisition, 
assimilation,  government,  and  creation  had  been  made 
impossible  for  us  by  their  foregone  realization,  so  that 
every  operation  was  forestalled  by  the  given  fact.  The 
distinction  between  the  ideal  and  the  real  is  one  which 
the  human  ideal  itself  insists  should  be  preserved. 

In  the  actual  world  this  first  condition  of  life  is  only 
too  amply  fulfilled  ;  the  present  difficulty  in  man's  estate, 
the  true  danger  to  his  vitality,  lies  not  in  want  of  work 
but  in  so  colossal  a  disproportion  between  demand  and 
opportunity  that  the  ideal  is  stunned  out  of  existence  and 
perishes  for  want  of  hope.  The  life  of  reason  is  continually 
beaten  back  upon  its  animal  sources,  and  nations  are 
submerged  in  deluge  after  deluge  of  barbarism. 



IDEALS  are  not  forces  ;  they  are  possible  forms  of  being 
that  would  frankly  express  the  will.  These  forms  are 
invulnerable,  eternal,  and  free  ;  and  he  who  finds  them 
divine  and  congenial  and  is  able  to  embody  them  at  least 
in  part  and  for  a  season,  has  to  that  extent  transfigured 
life,  turning  it  from  a  fatal  process  into  a  liberal  art. 

A  supreme  ideal  of  peace  and  perfection  which  moves 
the  lover,  and  which  moves  the  sky,  is  more  easily  named 


than  understood.  The  value  of  the  notion  to  a  poet  or 
a  philosopher  does  not  lie  in  what  it  contains  positively, 
but  in  the  attitude  it  expresses.  To  have  an  ideal  does 
not  mean  so  much  to  have  any  image  in  the  fancy,  any 
Utopia  more  or  less  articulate,  as  rather  to  take  a  con 
sistent  moral  attitude  towards  all  the  things  of  this  world, 
to  judge  and  coordinate  our  interests,  to  establish  a  hier 
archy  of  goods  and  evils,  and  to  value  events  and  persons, 
not  by  a  casual  personal  impression  or  instinct,  but  accord 
ing  to  their  real  nature  and  tendency.  So  understood,  an 
ultimate  ideal  is  no  mere  vision  of  the  philosophical  dreamer, 
but  the  goal  of  a  powerful  and  passionate  force  in  the 
poet  and  the  orator.  It  is  the  voice  of  his  love  or  hate,  of 
his  hope  or  sorrow,  idealizing,  challenging,  or  condemning 
the  world. 

The  ideal  is  itself  a  function  of  the  reality  and  cannot 
therefore  be  altogether  out  of  harmony  with  the  conditions 
of  its  own  birth  and  persistence.  Civilization  is  precarious, 
but  it  need  not  be  short-lived.  Its  inception  is  already 
a  proof  that  there  exists  an  equilibrium  of  forces  which 
is  favourable  to  its  existence  ;  and  there  is  no  reason 
to  suppose  this  equilibrium  to  be  less  stable  than  that 
which  keeps  the  planets  revolving  in  their  orbits. 


WHEN  we  consider  the  situation  of  the  human  mind  in 
nature,  its  limited  plasticity  and  few  channels  of  com 
munication  with  the  outer  world,  we  need  not  wonder 
that  we  grope  for  light,  or  that  we  find  incoherence  and 
instability  in  human  systems  of  ideas.  The  wonder  rather 
is  that  we  have  done  so  well,  that  in  the  chaos  of  sensations 
and  passions  that  fills  the  mind  we  have  found  any  leisure 
for  self-concentration  and  reflection,  and  have  succeeded 
in  gathering  even  a  light  harvest  of  experience  from  our 
distracted  labours.  Our  occasional  madness  is  less  wonder 
ful  than  our  occasional  sanity.  Relapses  into  dreams  are 
to  be  expected  in  a  being  whose  brief  existence  is  so  like 


a  dream  ;  but  who  could  have  been  sure  of  this  sturdy 
and  indomi  able  perseverance  in  the  work  of  reason  in 
spite  of  all  checks  and  discouragements  ? 

The  resources  of  the  mind  are  not  commensurate  with 
its  ambition.  Of  the  five  senses,  three  are  of  little  use 
in  the  formation  of  permanent  notions  :  a  fourth,  sight, 
is  indeed  vivid  and  luminous,  but  furnishes  transcripts  of 
things  so  highly  coloured  and  deeply  modified  by  the 
medium  of  sense,  that  a  long  labour  of  analysis  and  correc 
tion  is  needed  before  satisfactory  conceptions  can  be 
extracted  from  it.  For  this  labour,  however,  we  are 
endowed  with  the  requisite  instrument.  We  have  memory 
and  we  have  certain  powers  of  synthesis,  abstraction, 
reproduction,  invention, — in  a  word,  we  have  understanding. 
But  this  faculty  of  understanding  has  hardly  begun  its 
work  of  deciphering  the  hieroglyphics  of  sense  and  framing 
an  idea  of  reality,  when  it  is  crossed  by  another  faculty — 
the  imagination.  Perceptions  do  not  remain  in  the  mind, 
as  would  be  suggested  by  the  trite  simile  of  the  seal  and  the 
wax,  passive  and  changeless,  until  time  wear  off  their 
sharp  edges  and  make  them  fade.  No,  perceptions  fall 
into  the  brain  rather  as  seeds  into  a  furrowed  field  or 
even  as  sparks  into  a  keg  of  powder.  Each  image  breeds 
a  hundred  more,  sometimes  slowly  and  subterraneously, 
sometimes  (when  a  passionate  train  is  started)  with  a 
sudden  burst  of  fancy.  The  mind,  exercised  by  its  own 
fertility  and  flooded  by  its  inner  lights,  has  infinite  trouble 
to  keep  a  true  reckoning  of  its  outward  perceptions.  It 
turns  from  the  frigid  probl  ms  of  observation  to  its  own 
visions  ;  it  forgets  to  watch  the  courses  of  what  should 
be  its  "  pilot  stars."  Indeed,  were  it  not  for  the  power 
of  convention  in  which,  by  a  sort  of  mutual  cancellation 
of  errors,  the  more  practical  and  no  mal  conceptions 
are  enshrined,  the  imagination  would  carry  men  wholly 
away, — the  best  men  first  and  the  vulgar  after  them. 
Even  as  it  is,  individuals  and  ages  of  fervid  imagination 
usually  waste  themselves  in  dreams,  and  must  disappear 
before  the  race,  saddened  and  dazed,  perhaps,  by  the 
memory  of  those  visions,  can  return  to  its  plodding  thoughts. 

Five  senses,  then,  to  gather  a  small  part  of  the  infinite 
influences  that  vibrate  in  nature,  a  moderate  power  of 


understanding  to  interpret  those  senses,  and  an  irregular, 
passionate  fancy  to  overlay  that  interpretation — such 
is  the  endowment  of  the  human  mind.  And  what  is  its 
ambition  ?  Nothing  less  than  to  construct  a  picture 
of  all  reality,  to  comprehend  its  own  origin  and  that  of 
the  universe,  to  discover  the  laws  of  both  and  prophesy 
their  destiny.  Is  not  the  disproportion  enormous  ?  Are 
not  confusions  and  profound  contradictions  to  be  looked 
for  in  an  attempt  to  build  so  much  out  of  so  little  ? 



PERCEPTION  is  no  primary  phase  of  consciousness ;  it  is 
an  ulterior  function  acquired  by  a  dream  which  has  become 
symbolic  of  its  external  conditions,  and  therefore  relevant 
to  its  own  destiny.  Such  relevance  and  symbolism  are 
indirect  and  slowly  acquired ;  their  status  cannot  be 
understood  unless  we  regard  them  as  forms  of  imagination 
happily  grown  significant.  In  imagination,  not  in  per 
ception,  lies  the  substance  of  experience,  while  science  and 
reason  are  but  its  chastened  and  ultimate  form. 

Every  actual  animal  is  somewhat  dull  and  somewhat 
mad.  He  will  at  times  miss  his  signals  and  stare  vacantly 
when  he  might  well  act,  while  at  other  times  he  will  run 
off  into  convulsions  and  raise  a  dust  in  his  own  brain  to 
no  purpose.  These  imperfections  are  so  human  that  we 
should  hardly  recognize  ourselves  if  we  could  shake  them 
off  altogether.  Not  to  retain  any  dulness  would  mean 
to  possess  untiring  attention  and  universal  interests,  thus 
realizing  the  boast  about  deeming  nothing  human  alien 
to  us  ;  while  to  be  absolutely  without  folly  would  involve 
perfect  self-knowledge  and  self-control.  The  intelligent 
man  known  to  history  flourishes  within  a  dullard  and 
holds  a  lunatic  in  leash.  He  is  encased  in  a  protective 
shell  of  ignorance  and  insensibility  which  keeps  him  from 
being  exhausted  and  confused  by  this  too  complicated 
world  ;  but  that  integument  blinds  him  at  the  same  time 
to  many  of  his  nearest  and  highest  interests.  He  is  amused 


by  the  antics  of  the  brute  dreaming  within  his  breast; 
he  gloats  on  his  passionate  reveries,  an  amusement  which 
sometimes  costs  him  very  dear.  Thus  the  best  human 
intelligence  is  still  decidedly  barbarous  ;  it  fights  in  heavy 
armour  and  keeps  a  fool  at  court. 

If  consciousness  could  ever  have  the  function  of  guiding 
conduct  better  than  instinct  can,  in  the  beginning  it  would 
be  most  incompetent  for  that  office.  Only  the  routine 
and  equilibrium  which  healthy  instinct  involves  keep 
thought  and  will  at  all  within  the  limits  of  sanity.  The 
predetermined  interests  we  have  as  animals  fortunately 
focus  our  attention  on  practical  things,  pulling  it  back, 
like  a  ball  with  an  elastic  cord,  within  the  radius  of  pertinent 
matters.  Instinct  alone  compels  us  to  neglect  and  seldom 
to  recall  the  irrelevant  infinity  of  ideas.  Philosophers 
have  sometimes  said  that  all  ideas  come  from  experi 
ence  ;  they  never  could  have  been  poets  and  must  have 
forgotten  that  they  were  ever  children.  The  great  diffi 
culty  in  education  is  to  get  experience  out  of  ideas.  Shame, 
conscience,  and  reason  continually  disallow  and  ignore 
what  consciousness  presents ;  and  what  are  they  but 
habit  and  latent  instinct  asserting  themselves  and  forcing 
us  to  disregard  our  midsummer  madness  ?  Idiocy  and 
lunacy  are  merely  reversions  to  a  condition  in  which 
present  consciousness  is  in  the  ascendant  and  has  escaped 
the  control  of  unconscious  forces.  We  speak  of  people 
being  "  out  of  their  senses,"  when  they  have  in  fact  fallen 
back  into  them  ;  or  of  those  who  have  "  lost  their  mind," 
when  they  have  lost  merely  that  habitual  control  over 
consciousness  which  prevented  it  from  flaring  into  all 
sorts  of  obsessions  and  agonies.  Their  bodies  having 
become  deranged,  their  minds,  far  from  correcting  that 
derangement,  instantly  share  and  betray  it.  A  dream 
is  always  simmering  below  the  conventional  surface  of 
speech  and  reflection.  Even  in  the  highest  reaches  and 
serenest  meditations  of  science  it  sometimes  breaks  through. 
Even  there  we  are  seldom  constant  enough  to  conceive 
a  truly  natural  world ;  somewhere  passionate,  fanciful, 
or  magic  elements  will  slip  into  the  scheme  and  baffle 
rational  ambition. 



REASON  was  born,  as  it  has  since  discovered,  into  a  world 
already  wonderfully  organized,  in  which  it  found  its  pre 
cursor  in  what  is  called  life,  its  seat  in  an  animal  body 
of  unusual  plasticity,  and  its  function  in  rendering  the 
volatile  instincts  and  sensations  in  that  body  harmonious 
with  one  another  and  with  the  outer  world  on  which  they 
depend.  Reason  has  thus  supervened  at  the  last  stage 
of  an  adaptation  which  had  long  been  carried  on  by  irra 
tional  and  even  unconscious  processes.  Nature  preceded, 
with  all  that  fixation  of  impulses  and  conditions  which 
gives  reason  its  tasks  and  its  point  d'appui. 

The  guide  in  early  sensuous  education  is  the  same 
that  conducts  the  whole  life  of  reason,  namely,  impulse 
checked  by  experiment,  and  experiment  judged  again  by 
impulse.  What  teaches  the  child  to  distinguish  the 
nurse's  breast  from  sundry  blank  or  disquieting  presences  ? 
What  induces  him  to  arrest  that  image,  to  mark  its  associ 
ates,  and  to  recognize  them  with  alacrity  ?  The  dis 
comfort  of  its  absence  and  the  comfort  of  its  possession. 
To  that  image  is  attached  the  chief  satisfaction  he  knows, 
and  the  force  of  that  satisfaction  disentangles  it  before 
all  other  images  from  the  feeble  and  fluid  continuum  of 
his  life.  What  first  awakens  in  him  a  sense  of  reality  is 
what  first  is  able  to  appease  his  unrest.  Impulses  to 
appropriate  and  to  reject  first  teach  us  the  points  of  the 
compass,  and  space  itself,  like  charity,  begins  at  home. 

In  order  to  begin  at  the  beginning  in  the  autobiography 
of  mind,  we  must  try  to  fall  back  on  uninterpreted  feeling, 
as  the  mystics  aspire  to  do.  We  need  not  expect,  however, 
to  find  peace  there,  for  the  immediate  is  in  flux.  It  is 
not  God  but  chaos  ;  its  nothingness  is  pregnant,  restless, 
and  brutish  ;  it  is  that  from  which  all  our  ideas  of  things 
emerge  in  so  far  as  they  have  any  permanence  or  value, 
so  that  to  lapse  into  it  again  is  a  dull  suicide  and  no  salva 
tion.  Peace,  which  is  after  all  what  the  mystic  seeks, 
lies  not  in  indistinction  but  in  perfection.  If  he  reaches 


it  in  a  measure  himself,  it  is  by  the  traditional  discipline 
he  still  practises,  not  by  his  heats  or  his  languors.  The 
perturbed  immediate  finds  or  at  least  seeks  its  peace  in 
reason,  through  which  it  comes  in  sight  of  some  sort  of 
ideal  permanence.  When  the  material  flux  manages  to 
form  an  eddy  and  to  maintain  by  breathing  and  nutrition 
what  we  call  a  life,  it  affords  some  slight  foothold  and 
object  for  thought  and  becomes  in  a  measure  like  the  ark  in 
the  desert,  a  moving  habitation  for  the  eternal.  Life  begins 
to  have  some  value  and  continuity  so  soon  as  there  is  some 
thing  definite  that  lives  and  something  definite  to  live  for. 
The  primacy  of  impulses,  irrational  in  themselves  but 
expressive  of  bodily  functions,  is  observable  in  the  behaviour 
of  animals,  and  in  those  dreams,  obsessions,  and  primary 
passions  which  in  the  midst  of  sophisticated  life  some 
times  lay  bare  the  obscure  groundwork  of  human  nature. 
Reason's  work  is  there  undone.  We  can  observe  sporadic 
growths,  disjointed  fragments  of  rationality,  springing 
up  in  a  moral  wilderness.  In  the  passion  of  love,  for 
instance,  a  cause  unknown  to  the  sufferer,  but  which  is 
doubtless  the  spring-flood  of  hereditary  instincts  acci 
dentally  let  loose,  suddenly  checks  the  young  man's  gaiety, 
dispels  his  random  curiosity,  arrests  perhaps  his  very 
breath  ;  and  when  he  looks  for  a  cause  to  explain  his 
suspended  faculties,  he  can  find  it  only  in  the  presence 
or  image  of  another  being,  of  whose  character,  possibly,  he 
knows  nothing  and  whose  beauty  may  not  be  remarkable  ; 
yet  that  image  pursues  him  everywhere,  and  he  is  dominated 
by  an  unaccustomed  tragic  earnestness  and  a  new  capacity 
for  suffering  and  joy.  If  the  passion  be  strong  there  is 
no  previous  interest  or  duty  that  will  be  remembered 
before  it ;  if  it  be  lasting  the  whole  life  may  be  reorganized 
by  it  ;  it  may  impose  new  habits,  other  manners,  and 
another  religion.  Yet  what  is  the  root  of  all  this  idealism  ? 
An  irrational  instinct,  normally  intermittent,  such  as  all 
dumb  creatures  share,  which  has  here  managed  to  dominate 
a  human  soul  and  to  enlist  all  the  mental  powers  in  its 
more  or  less  permanent  service,  upsetting  their  usual 
equilibrium.  This  madness,  however,  inspires  method ; 
and  for  the  first  time,  perhaps,  in  his  life,  the  man  has 
something  to  live  for.  The  blind  affinity  that  like  a 


magnet  draws  all  the  faculties  round  it,  in  so  uniting 
them,  suffuses  them  with  an  unwonted  spiritual  light. 

Here,  on  a  small  scale  and  on  a  precarious  foundation, 
we  may  see  clearly  illustrated  and  foreshadowed  that  life 
of  reason  which  is  simply  the  unity  given  to  all  existence 
by  a  mind  in  love  with  the  good.  In  the  higher  reaches 
of  human  nature,  as  much  as  in  the  lower,  rationality 
depends  on  distinguishing  the  excellent ;  and  that  dis 
tinction  can  be  made,  in  the  last  analysis,  only  by  an  irra 
tional  impulse.  As  life  is  a  better  form  given  to  force, 
by  which  the  universal  flux  is  subdued  to  create  and 
serve  a  somewhat  permanent  interest,  so  reason  is  a  better 
form  given  to  interest  itself,  by  which  it  is  fortified  and 
propagated,  and  ultimately,  perhaps,  assured  of  satisfac 
tion.  The  substance  to  which  this  form  is  given  remains 
irrational ;  so  that  rationality,  like  all  excellence,  is 
something  secondary  and  relative,  requiring  a  natural 
being  to  possess  or  to  impute  it.  When  definite  interests 
are  recognized  and  the  values  of  things  are  estimated  by 
that  standard,  action  at  the  same  time  veering  in  harmony 
with  that  estimation,  then  reason  has  been  born  and  a 
moral  world  has  arisen. 


IF  a  dog,  while  sniffing  about  contentedly,  sees  afar  off 
his  master  arriving  after  long  absence,  a  new  circle  of 
sensations  appears,  with  a  new  principle  governing  interest 
and  desire  ;  instead  of  waywardness  subjection,  instead 
of  freedom  love.  But  the  poor  brute  asks  for  no  reason 
why  his  master  went,  why  he  has  come  again,  why  he 
should  be  loved,  or  why  presently  while  lying  at  his  feet 
you  forget  him  and  begin  to  grunt  and  dream  of  the  chase 
— all  that  is  an  utter  mystery,  utterly  unconsidered. 
Such  experience  has  variety,  scenery,  and  a  certain  vital 
rhythm  ;  its  story  might  be  told  in  dithyrambic  verse. 
It  moves  wholly  by  inspiration ;  every  event  is  pro 
vidential,  every  act  unpremeditated.  Absolute  freedom 
and  absolute  helplessness  have  met  together :  you  depend 


wholly  on  divine  favour,  yet  that  unfathomable  agency 
is  not  distinguishable  from  your  own  life.  This  is  the 
condition  to  which  some  forms  of  piety  invite  men  to 
return ;  and  it  lies  in  truth  not  far  beneath  the  level  of 
ordinary  human  consciousness. 

Systematic  living  is  after  all  an  experiment,  as  is  the 
formation  of  animal  bodies,  and  the  inorganic  pulp  out 
of  which  these  growths  have  come  may  very  likely  have 
had  its  own  incommunicable  values,  its  absolute  thrills, 
which  we  vainly  try  to  remember  and  to  which,  in  moments 
of  dissolution,  we  may  half  revert.  Protoplasmic  pleasures 
and  strains  may  be  the  substance  of  consciousness  ;  and 
as  matter  seeks  its  own  level,  and  as  the  sea  and  the  flat 
waste  to  which  all  dust  returns  have  a  certain  primordial 
life  and  a  certain  sublimity,  so  all  passions  and  ideas, 
when  spent,  may  rejoin  the  basal  note  of  feeling,  and 
enlarge  their  volume  as  they  lose  their  form.  This  loss  of 
form  may  not  be  unwelcome,  if  it  is  the  formless  that, 
by  anticipation,  speaks  through  what  is  surrendering  its 
being.  Though  to  acquire  or  impart  form  is  delightful 
in  art,  in  thought  in  generation,  in  government,  yet  a 
euthanasia  of  finitude  is  also  known.  All  is  not  affecta 
tion  in  the  poet  who  says,  "  Now  more  than  ever  seems 
it  rich  to  die  "  ;  and,  without  any  poetry  or  affectation, 
men  may  love  sleep,  and  opiates,  and  every  luxurious 
escape  from  humanity. 

The  path  of  reason  is  only  one  of  innumerable  courses 
perhaps  open  to  existence,  but  it  is  the  only  one  that 
human  discourse  is  competent  to  trace.  Madness,  if 
pronounced,  is  precarious,  but  when  speculative  enough 
to  be  harmless  or  not  deep  enough  to  be  debilitating, 
it  may  last  for  ever. 

An  imaginative  life  may  therefore  exist  parasitically 
in  a  man,  hardly  touching  his  action  or  environment. 
There  is  no  possibility  of  exorcizing  these  apparitions  by 
their  own  power.  A  nightmare  does  not  dispel  itself ;  it 
endures  until  the  organic  strain  which  caused  it  is  relaxed 
either  by  natural  exhaustion  or  by  some  external  influence. 
Therefore  human  ideas  are  still  for  the  most  part  sensuous 
and  trivial,  shifting  with  the  chance  currents  of  the  brain, 
and  representing  nothing,  so  to  speak,  but  personal  tern- 


perature.  Personal  temperature,  moreover,  is  sometimes 
tropical.  There  are  brains  like  a  South  American  jungle, 
as  there  are  others  like  an  Arabian  desert,  strewn  with 
nothing  but  bones.  While  a  passionate  sultriness  prevails 
in  the  mind  there  is  no  end  to  its  luxuriance.  Languages 
intricately  articulate,  flaming  mythologies,  metaphysical 
perspectives  lost  in  infinity,  arise  in  remarkable  profusion. 
In  time,  however,  there  comes  a  change  of  climate  and  the 
whole  forest  disappears. 

It  is  easy,  from  the  standpoint  of  acquired  practical 
competence,  to  deride  a  merely  imaginative  life.  Derision, 
however,  is  not  interpretation,  and  the  better  method  of 
overcoming  erratic  ideas  is  to  trace  them  out  dialectically 
and  see  if  they  will  not  recognize  their  own  fatuity.  The 
most  irresponsible  vision  has  certain  principles  of  order 
and  valuation  by  which  it  estimates  itself ;  and  in  these 
principles  the  life  of  reason  is  already  broached,  however 
halting  may  be  its  development.  We  should  lead  our 
selves  out  of  our  dream,  as  the  Israelites  were  led  out  of 
Egypt,  by  the  promise  and  eloquence  of  that  dream  itself. 
Otherwise  we  might  kill  the  goose  that  lays  the  golden 
egg,  and  by  proscribing  imagination  abolish  science. 

Felix  qui  potuit  rerum  cognoscere  causas,  said  a  poet 
who  stood  near  enough  to  fundamental  human  needs, 
and  to  the  great  answer  which  art  and  civilization  can 
make  to  them,  to  value  the  life  of  reason  and  think  it 
sublime.  To  discern  causes  is  to  turn  vision  into  know 
ledge  and  motion  into  action.  It  is  to  fix  the  associates 
of  things  so  that  their  respective  transformations  are  col 
lated,  and  they  become  significant  of  one  another.  The 
calm  places  in  life  are  filled  with  power  and  the  spasms 
with  resource.  No  emotion  can  overwhelm  the  mind, 
for  of  none  is  the  basis  or  issue  wholly  hidden  ;  no  event 
can  disconcert  it  altogether,  because  it  sees  beyond.  Means 
can  be  looked  for  to  escape  from  the  worst  predicament ; 
and  whereas  each  moment  had  been  formerly  filled  with 
nothing  but  its  own  adventure  and  surprised  emotion, 
each  now  makes  room  for  the  lesson  of  what  went  before 
and  surmises  what  may  be  the  plot  of  the  whole. 



NOTHING  is  more  natural  than  that  animals  should  feel 
and  think.  The  relation  of  mind  to  body,  of  reason  to 
nature,  seems  to  be  actually  this :  when  bodies  have 
reached  a  certain  complexity  and  vital  equilibrium,  a  sense 
begins  to  inhabit  them  which  is  focussed  upon  the  pre 
servation  of  that  body  and  on  its  reproduction.  To 
separate  things  so  closely  bound  together  as  are  mind  and 
body,  reason  and  nature,  is  a  violent  and  artificial  divorce, 
and  a  man  of  judgment  will  instinctively  discredit  any 
philosophy  in  which  it  is  decreed.  But  to  avoid  divorce  it 
is  well  first  to  avoid  unnatural  unions,  and  not  to  attribute 
to  our  two  elements,  which  must  be  partners  for  life, 
relations  repugnant  to  their  respective  natures  and  offices. 
Now  the  body  is  an  instrument,  the  mind  its  function, 
the  witness  and  reward  of  its  operation.  Mind  is  the 
entelechy  of  the  body,  a  value  which  accrues  to  the  body 
when  it  has  reached  a  certain  perfection,  of  which  it  would 
be  a  pity,  so  to  speak,  that  it  should  remain  unconscious  ; 
so  that  while  the  body  feeds  the  mind  the  mind  perfects 
the  body,  lifting  it  and  all  its  natural  relations  and  impulses 
into  the  moral  world,  into  the  sphere  of  interests  and  ideas. 
No  connexion  could  be  closer  than  this  reciprocal 
involution,  as  nature  and  life  reveal  it ;  but  the  connexion 
is  natural,  not  dialectical.  The  union  will  be  denaturalized 
and,  so  far  as  philosophy  goes,  actually  destroyed,  if  we 
seek  to  carry  it  on  into  logical  equivalence.  If  we  isolate 
the  terms  mind  and  body  and  study  the  inward  implica 
tions  of  each  apart,  we  shall  never  discover  the  other. 
That  matter  cannot,  by  transposition  of  its  particles, 
become  what  we  call  consciousness,  is  an  admitted  truth  ; 
that  mind  cannot  become  its  own  occasions  or  determine 
its  own  march,  though  it  be  a  truth  not  recognized  by  all 
philosophers,  is  in  itself  no  less  obvious.  Matter,  dialectic- 
ally  studied,  makes  consciousness  seem  a  superfluous 
and  unaccountable  addendum ;  mind,  studied  in  the 
same  way,  makes  nature  an  embarrassing  idea,  a  figment 


which  ought  to  be  subservient  to  conscious  aims  and 
perfectly  transparent,  but  which  remains  opaque  and 
overwhelming.  In  order  to  escape  these  sophistications, 
it  suffices  to  revert  to  immediate  observation  and  state 
the  question  in  its  proper  terms  :  nature  lives,  and  per 
ception  is  a  private  echo  and  response  to  ambient  motions. 
The  mind  gives  voice  to  the  impulses  of  the  body  ;  at 
their  behest  a  man  defines  the  world  that  sustains  him 
and  that  conditions  all  his  satisfactions.  In  discerning 
his  origin  he  christens  Nature  by  the  eloquent  name  of 
mother,  under  which  title  she  enters  the  universe  of  dis 
course.  Simultaneously  he  discerns  his  own  existence 
and  marks  off  the  inner  region  of  his  dreams.  And  it 
behooves  him  not  to  obliterate  these  discoveries.  By  trying 
to  give  his  mind  false  points  of  attachment  in  nature 
he  would  disfigure  not  only  nature  but  also  that  reason 
which  is  so  much  the  essence  of  his  life. 

Consciousness,  then,  is  the  expression  of  bodily  life 
and  the  seat  of  all  its  values.  Its  place  in  the  natural 
world  is  like  that  of  its  own  ideal  products,  art,  religion, 
or  science  ;  it  translates  natural  relations  into  synthetic 
and  ideal  symbols  by  which  things  are  interpreted  with 
reference  to  the  interests  of  consciousness  itself.  This 
representation  is  also  an  existence  and  has  its  place  along 
with  all  other  existences  in  the  bosom  of  nature.  In  this 
sense  its  connexion  with  its  organs,  and  with  all  that  affects 
the  body  or  that  the  body  affects,  is  a  natural  connexion. 
If  the  word  cause  did  not  suggest  dialectical  bonds  we 
might  innocently  say  that  thought  was  a  link  in  the  chain 
of  natural  causes.  It  is  at  least  a  link  in  the  chain 
of  natural  events ;  for  it  has  determinate  antecedents 
in  the  brain  and  senses  and  determinate  consequents  in 
actions  and  words.  But  this  dependence  and  this  efficacy 
have  nothing  logical  about  them ;  they  are  habitual 
collocations  in  the  world,  like  lightning  and  thunder. 

Whether  consciousness  accompanies  vegetative  life,  or 
even  all  motion,  is  a  point  to  be  decided  solely  by  empiri 
cal  analogy.  When  the  exact  physical  conditions  of 
thought  are  discovered  in  man,  we  may  infer  how  far 
thought  is  diffused  through  the  universe,  for  it  will  be 
coextensive  with  the  conditions  it  will  have  been  shown 


to  have.  Now,  in  a  very  rough  way,  we  know  already  what 
these  conditions  are.  They  are  first  the  existence  of  an 
organic  body  and  then  its  possession  of  adaptable  instincts, 
of  instincts  that  can  be  modified  by  experience.  This 
capacity  is  what  an  observer  calls  intelligence  ;  docility 
is  the  observable  half  of  reason.  When  an  animal  winces 
at  a  blow  and  readjusts  his  pose,  we  say  he  feels  ;  and 
we  say  he  thinks  when  we  see  him  brooding  over  his  im 
pressions,  and  find  him  launching  into  a  new  course  of 
action  after  a  silent  decoction  of  his  potential  impulses. 
Conversely,  when  observation  covers  both  the  mental  and 
the  physical  process,  that  is,  in  our  own  experience,  we 
find  that  felt  impulses,  the  conceived  objects  for  which  they 
make,  and  the  values  they  determine  are  all  correlated 
with  animal  instincts  and  external  impressions.  A  desire 
is  the  inward  sign  of  a  physical  proclivity  to  act,  an  image 
in  sense  is  the  sign  in  most  cases  of  some  material  object 
in  the  environment  and  always,  we  may  presume,  of  some 
cerebral  change.  The  brain  seems  to  simmer  like  a  caldron 
in  which  all  sorts  of  matters  are  perpetually  transforming 
themselves  into  all  sorts  of  shapes.  When  this  cerebral 
reorganization  is  pertinent  to  the  external  situation  and 
renders  the  man,  when  he  resumes  action,  more  a  master 
of  his  world,  the  accompanying  thought  is  said  to  be 
practical ;  for  it  brings  a  consciousness  of  power  and  an 
earnest  of  success. 

Cerebral  processes  are  of  course  largely  hypothetical. 
Theory  suggests  their  existence,  and  experience  can  verify 
that  theory  only  in  an  indirect  and  imperfect  manner. 
The  addition  of  a  physical  substratum  to  all  thinking 
is  only  a  scientific  expedient,  a  hypothesis  expressing  the 
faith  that  nature  is  mechanically  intelligible  even  beyond 
the  reaches  of  minute  verification.  On  the  other  hand, 
to  add  a  mental  phase  to  every  part  and  motion  of  the 
cosmos  is  an  audacious  fancy.  It  violates  all  empirical 
analogy,  for  the  phenomenon  which  feeling  accompanies 
in  crude  experience  is  not  mere  material  existence,  but 
reactive  organization  and  docility. 

The  limits  set  to  observation,  however,  render  the 
mental  and  material  spheres  far  from  coincident,  and  even 
in  a  rough  way  mutually  supplementary,  so  that  human 



reflection  has  fallen  into  a  habit  of  interlarding  them. 
The  world,  instead  of  being  a  living  body,  a  natural  system 
with  moral  functions,  has  seemed  to  be  a  bisectible  hybrid, 
half  material  and  half  mental,  the  clumsy  conjunction 
of  an  automaton  with  a  ghost.  If  philosophers  of  the 
Cartesian  school  had  taken  to  heart,  as  the  German  trans- 
cendentalists  did,  the  cogito  ergo  sum  of  their  master, 
and  had  considered  that  a  physical  world  is,  for  knowledge, 
nothing  but  an  instrument  to  explain  sensations  and  their 
order,  they  might  have  expected  the  collapse  of  half  their 
metaphysics  at  the  approach  of  their  positive  science  : 
for  if  mental  existence  was  to  be  kept  standing  only  by 
its  supposed  causal  efficacy  nothing  could  prevent  the 
whole  world  from  becoming  presently  a  bete  machine. 
Psychic  events  have  no  links  save  through  their  organs 
and  their  objects  ;  the  function  of  the  material  world  is, 
indeed,  precisely  to  supply  their  linkage.  The  internal 
relations  of  ideas,  on  the  other  hand,  are  dialectical ;  their 
realm  is  eternal  and  absolutely  irrelevant  to  the  march 
of  events.  If  we  must  speak,  therefore,  of  causal  relations 
between  mind  and  body,  we  should  say  that  matter  is  the 
pervasive  cause  of  the  distribution  of  mind,  and  mind  the 
pervasive  cause  of  the  discovery  and  value  of  matter.  To 
ask  for  an  efficient  cause,  to  trace  back  a  force  or  investigate 
origins,  is  to  have  already  turned  one's  face  in  the  direction 
of  matter  and  mechanical  laws  :  no  success  in  that  under 
taking  can  fail  to  be  a  triumph  for  materialism.  To  ask 
for  a  justification,  on  the  other  hand,  is  to  turn  no  less 
resolutely  in  the  direction  of  ideal  results  and  actualities 
from  which  instrumentality  and  further  use  have  been 
eliminated.  Spirit  is  useless,  being  the  end  of  things  : 
but  it  is  not  vain,  since  it  alone  rescues  all  else  from  vanity. 
It  is  called  practical  when  it  is  prophetic  of  its  own  better 
fulfilments,  which  is  the  case  whenever  forces  are  being 
turned  to  good  uses,  whenever  an  organism  is  exploring 
its  relations  and  putting  forth  new  tentacles  with  which  to 
grasp  the  world. 

THE  SELF  19 


WHAT  we  call  ourselves  is  a  certain  cycle  of  vegetative 
processes,  bringing  a  round  of  familiar  impulses  and  ideas  ; 
this  stream  has  a  general  direction,  a  conscious  vital  inertia, 
in  harmony  with  which  it  moves.  Many  of  the  develop 
ments  within  it  are  dialectical ;  that  is,  they  go  forward 
by  inner  necessity,  like  an  egg  hatching  within  its  shell, 
warmed  but  undisturbed  by  an  environment  of  which 
they  are  wholly  oblivious ;  and  this  sort  of  growth,  when 
there  is  adequate  consciousness  of  it,  is  felt  to  be  both 
absolutely  obvious  and  absolutely  free.  The  emotion 
that  accompanies  it  is  pleasurable,  but  is  too  active  and 
proud  to  call  itself  a  pleasure  ;  it  has  rather  the  quality 
of  assurance  and  right.  This  part  of  life,  however,  is  only 
its  courageous  core  ;  about  it  play  all  sorts  of  incidental 
processes,  allying  themselves  to  it  in  more  or  less  congruous 
movement.  Whatever  peripheral  events  fall  in  with  the 
central  impulse  are  lost  in  its  energy  and  felt  to  be  not 
so  much  peripheral  and  accidental  as  inwardly  grounded, 
being,  like  the  stages  of  a  prosperous  dialectic,  spontaneously 
demanded  and  instantly  justified  when  they  come. 

Man  is  as  full  of  potentiality  as  he  is  of  impotence. 
A  will  in  harmony  with  many  active  forces,  and  skilful  in 
divination  and  augury,  may  long  profess  to  be  almighty 
without  being  contradicted  by  the  event.  The  sphere 
of  the  self's  power  is  accordingly,  for  primitive  estimation, 
simply  the  sphere  of  what  happens  well ;  it  is  the  entire 
unoffending  and  obedient  part  of  the  world.  A  man  who 
has  good  luck  at  dice  prides  himself  upon  it,  and  believes 
that  to  have  it  is  his  destiny  and  desert.  If  his  luck 
were  absolutely  constant,  he  would  say  he  had  the  power 
to  throw  high  ;  and  as  the  event  would,  by  hypothesis, 
sustain  his  boast,  there  would  be  no  practical  error  in  that 
assumption.  A  will  that  never  found  anything  to  thwart 
it  would  think  itself  omnipotent ;  and  as  the  psychological 
essence  of  omniscience  is  not  to  suspect  there  is  anything 
which  you  do  not  know,  so  the  psychological  essence  of 
omnipotence  is  not  to  suspect  that  anything  can  happen 


which  you  do  not  desire.  Such  claims  would  undoubtedly 
be  made  if  experience  lent  them  the  least  colour ;  but 
would  even  the  most  comfortable  and  innocent  assurances 
of  this  sort  cease  to  be  precarious  ?  Might  not  any  moment 
of  eternity  bring  the  unimagined  contradiction,  and  shake 
the  dreaming  god  ? 


IDEAL  society  is  a  drama  enacted  exclusively  in  the  imagina 
tion.  Its  personages  are  all  mythical,  beginning  with 
that  brave  protagonist  who  calls  himself  I  and  speaks  all 
the  soliloquies.  When  most  nearly  material  these  per 
sonages  are  human  souls — the  ideal  life  of  particular 
bodies — or  floating  mortal  reputations — echoes  of  those 
ideal  lives  in  one  another.  From  this  relative  substanti 
ality  they  fade  into  notions  of  country,  posterity,  humanity, 
and  the  gods.  These  figures  all  represent  some  circle 
of  events  or  forces  in  the  real  world  ;  but  such  repre 
sentation,  besides  being  mythical,  is  usually  most  inade 
quate.  The  boundaries  of  that  province  which  each  spirit 
presides  over  are  vaguely  drawn,  the  spirit  itself  being 
correspondingly  indefinite.  This  ambiguity  is  most  con 
spicuous,  perhaps,  in  the  most  absorbing  of  the  personages 
which  a  man  constructs  in  this  imaginative  fashion — his 
idea  of  himself.  "  There  is  society  where  none  intrudes  "  ; 
and  for  most  men  sympathy  with  their  imaginary  selves 
is  a  powerful  and  dominant  emotion.  True  memory  offers 
but  a  meagre  and  interrupted  vista  of  past  experience, 
yet  even  that  picture  is  far  too  rich  a  term  for  mental 
discourse  to  bandy  about ;  a  name  with  a  few  physical 
and  social  connotations  is  what  must  represent  the  man 
to  his  own  thinkings.  Or  rather  it  is  no  memory,  however 
eviscerated,  that  fulfils  that  office.  A  man's  notion  of 
himself  is  a  figment  in  discourse  for  which  his  more  con 
stant  bodily  feelings,  his  ruling  interests,  and  his  social 
relations  furnish  most  of  the  substance. 

The  more  reflective  and  self-conscious  a  man  is  the 
more  completely  will  his  experience  be  subsumed  and 
absorbed  in  his  perennial  "I."  If  philosophy  has  come 


to  reinforce  this  reflective  egotism,  he  may  even  regard 
all  nature  as  nothing  but  his  half-voluntary  dream  and 
encourage  himself  thereby  to  give  even  to  the  physical 
world  a  dramatic  and  sentimental  colour.  But  the  more 
successful  he  is  in  stuffing  everything  into  his  self-con 
sciousness,  the  more  desolate  will  the  void  become  which 
surrounds  him.  For  self  is,  after  all,  but  one  term  in  a 
primitive  dichotomy  and  would  lose  its  specific  and  intimate 
character  were  it  no  longer  contrasted  with  anything  else. 
The  egoist  must  therefore  people  the  desert  he  has  spread 
about  him,  and  he  naturally  peoples  it  with  mythical 
counterparts  of  himself.  Sometimes,  if  his  imagination 
is  sensuous,  his  alter-egos  are  incarnate  in  the  landscape, 
and  he  creates  a  poetic  mythology ;  sometimes,  when 
the  inner  life  predominates,  they  are  projected  into  his 
own  forgotten  past  or  infinite  future.  He  will  then  say 
that  all  experience  is  really  his  own  and  that  some  inex 
plicable  illusion  has  momentarily  raised  opaque  partitions 
in  his  omniscient  mind. 

Philosophers  less  pretentious  and  more  worldly  than 
these  have  sometimes  felt,  in  their  way,  the  absorbing 
force  of  self-consciousness.  La  Rochefoucauld  could  de 
scribe  amour  propre  as  the  spring  of  all  human  senti 
ments.  Amour  propre  involves  preoccupation  not  merely 
with  the  idea  of  self,  but  with  that  idea  reproduced  in 
other  men's  minds  ;  the  soliloquy  has  become  a  dialogue, 
or  rather  a  solo  with  an  echoing  chorus.  Interest  in  one's 
own  social  figure  is  to  some  extent  a  material  interest, 
for  other  men's  love  or  aversion  is  a  principle  read  into 
their  acts  ;  and  a  social  animal  like  man  is  dependent 
on  other  men's  acts  for  his  happiness.  An  individual's 
concern  for  the  attitude  society  takes  toward  him  is  there 
fore  in  the  first  instance  concern  for  his  own  practical 
welfare.  But  imagination  here  refines  upon  worldly 
interest.  What  others  think  of  us  would  be  of  little 
moment  did  it  not,  when  known,  so  deeply  tinge  what 
we  think  of  ourselves.  Nothing  could  better  prove  the 
mythical  character  of  self-consciousness  than  this  extreme 
sensitiveness  to  alien  opinions  ;  for  if  a  man  really  knew 
himself  he  would  utterly  despise  the  ignorant  notions 
others  might  form  on  a  subject  in  which  he  had  such 


matchless  opportunities  for  observation.  Indeed,  those 
opinions  would  hardly  seem  to  him  directed  upon  the 
reality  at  all,  and  he  would  laugh  at  them  as  he  might  at 
the  stock  fortune-telling  of  some  itinerant  gypsy. 

As  it  is,  however,  the  least  breath  of  irresponsible 
and  anonymous  censure  lashes  our  self-esteem  and  some 
times  quite  transforms  our  plans  and  affections.  The 
passions  grafted  on  wounded  pride  are  the  most  inveterate  ; 
they  are  green  and  vigorous  in  old  age.  We  crave  support 
in  vanity,  as  we  do  in  religion,  and  never  forgive  contra 
dictions  in  that  sphere ;  for  however  persistent  and 
passionate  such  prejudices  may  be,  we  know  too  well  that 
they  are  woven  of  thin  air.  A  hostile  word,  by  starting 
a  contrary  imaginative  current,  buffets  them  rudely  and 
threatens  to  dissolve  their  being. 

The  highest  form  of  vanity  is  love  of  fame.  It  is  a 
passion  easy  to  deride  but  hard  to  understand,  and  in  men 
who  live  at  all  by  imagination  almost  impossible  to  eradicate. 
The  good  opinion  of  posterity  can  have  no  possible  effect 
on  our  fortunes,  and  the  practical  value  which  reputation 
may  temporarily  have  is  quite  absent  in  posthumous 
fame.  The  direct  object  of  this  passion — that  a  name 
should  survive  in  men's  mouths  to  which  no  adequate 
idea  of  its  original  can  be  attached — seems  a  thin  and 
fantastic  satisfaction,  especially  when  we  consider  how 
little  we  should  probably  sympathize  with  the  creatures 
that  are  to  remember  us.  What  comfort  would  it  be  to 
Virgil  that  boys  still  read  him  at  school,  or  to  Pindar  that 
he  is  sometimes  mentioned  in  a  world  from  which  every 
thing  he  loved  has  departed  ?  Yet,  beneath  this  desire  for 
nominal  longevity,  apparently  so  inane,  there  may  lurk  an 
ideal  ambition  of  which  the  ancients  cannot  have  been  uncon 
scious  when  they  set  so  high  a  value  on  fame.  They  often 
identified  fame  with  immortality,  a  subject  on  which  they 
had  far  more  rational  sentiments  than  have  since  prevailed. 

Fame,  as  a  noble  mind  conceives  and  desires  it,  is  not 
embodied  in  a  monument,  a  biography,  or  the  repetition 
of  a  strange  name  by  strangers  ;  it  consists  in  the  im 
mortality  of  a  man's  work,  his  spirit,  his  efficacy,  in  the 
perpetual  rejuvenation  of  his  soul  in  the  world.  When 
Horace — no  model  of  magnanimity — wrote  his  exegi 


monumentum,  he  was  not  thinking  that  the  pleasure  he 
would  continue  to  give  would  remind  people  of  his  trivial 
personality,  which  indeed  he  never  particularly  celebrated 
and  which  had  much  better  lie  buried  with  his  bones. 
He  was  thinking,  of  course,  of  that  pleasure  itself  ;  think 
ing  that  the  delight,  half  lyric,  half  sarcastic,  which  those 
delicate  cameos  had  given  him  to  carve  would  be  per 
ennially  renewed  in  all  who  retraced  them.  Nay,  perhaps 
we  may  not  go  too  far  in  saying  that  even  that  impersonal 
satisfaction  was  not  the  deepest  he  felt ;  the  deepest, 
very  likely,  flowed  from  the  immortality,  not  of  his  monu 
ment,  but  of  the  subject  and  passion  it  commemorated  ; 
that  tenderness,  I  mean,  and  that  disillusion  with  mortal 
life  which  rendered  his  verse  immortal.  He  had  expressed, 
and  in  expressing  appropriated,  some  recurring  human 
moods,  some  mocking  renunciations  ;  and  he  knew  that 
his  spirit  was  immortal,  being  linked  and  identified  with 
that  portion  of  the  truth.  He  had  become  a  little  spokes 
man  of  humanity,  uttering  what  all  experience  repeats 
more  or  less  articulately ;  and  even  if  he  should  cease 
to  be  honoured  in  men's  memories,  he  would  continue 
to  be  unwittingly  honoured  and  justified  in  their  lives. 

What  we  may  conceive  to  have  come  in  this  way  even 
within  the  apprehension  of  Horace  is  undoubtedly  what 
has  attached  many  nobler  souls  to  fame.  With  an  inver 
sion  of  moral  derivations  which  all  mythical  expression 
involves  we  speak  of  fame  as  the  reward  of  genius,  whereas 
in  truth  genius,  the  imaginative  dominion  over  experience,  is 
its  own  reward  and  fame  is  but  a  foolish  image  by  which 
its  worth  is  symbolized.  When  the  Virgin  in  the  Magnificat 
says,  "  Behold,  from  henceforth  all  generations  shall  call 
me  blessed,"  the  psalmist  surely  means  to  express  a  spiritual 
exaltation  exempt  from  vanity ;  he  merely  translates 
into  a  rhetorical  figure  the  fact  that  what  had  been  first 
revealed  to  Mary  would  also  bless  all  generations.  That 
the  church  should  in  consequence  deem  and  pronounce 
her  blessed  is  an  incident  describing,  but  not  creating, 
the  unanimity  in  their  religious  joys.  Fame  is  thus  the 
outward  sign  or  recognition  of  an  inward  representative 
authority  residing  in  genius  or  good  fortune,  an  authority 
in  which  lies  the  whole  worth  of  fame.  Those  will  sub- 


stantially  remember  and  honour  us  who  keep  our  ideals, 
and  we  shall  live  on  in  those  ages  whose  experience  we  have 


SEA-SICKNESS  and  child-birth  when  they  are  over,  the 
pangs  of  despised  love  when  that  love  is  dead  or  requited, 
the  travail  of  sin  when  once  salvation  is  assured,  all  melt 
away  and  dissolve  like  a  morning  mist  leaving  a  clear 
sky  without  a  vestige  of  sorrow.  So  also  with  merely 
remembered  and  not  reproducible  pleasures  ;  the  buoyancy 
of  youth,  when  absurdity  was  not  yet  tedious,  the  rapture 
of  sport  or  passion,  the  immense  peace  found  in  a  mystical 
surrender  to  the  universal,  all  these  generous  ardours  count 
for  nothing  when  they  are  once  gone.  The  memory  of 
them  cannot  cure  a  fit  of  the  blues  nor  raise  an  irritable 
mortal  above  some  petty  act  of  malice  or  vengeance,  or 
reconcile  him  to  foul  weather.  An  ode  of  Horace,  on  the 
other  hand,  a  scientific  monograph,  or  a  well-written 
page  of  music  is  a  better  antidote  to  melancholy  than 
thinking  on  all  the  happiness  which  one's  own  life  or  that 
of  the  universe  may  ever  have  contained.  Why  should 
overwhelming  masses  of  suffering  and  joy  affect  imagina 
tion  so  little  while  it  responds  sympathetically  to  aesthetic 
and  intellectual  irritants  of  very  slight  intensity,  objects 
that,  it  must  be  confessed,  are  of  almost  no  importance  to  the 
welfare  of  mankind  ?  Why  should  we  be  so  easily  awed 
by  artistic  genius  and  exalt  men  whose  works  we  know 
only  by  name,  perhaps,  and  whose  influence  upon  society 
has  been  infinitesimal,  like  a  Pindar  or  a  Leonardo,  while 
we  regard  great  merchants  and  inventors  as  ignoble 
creatures  in  comparison  ?  There  is  a  prodigious  selfish 
ness  in  dreams  :  they  live  perfectly  deaf  and  invulnerable 
amid  the  cries  of  the  real  world. 

Utilitarians  have  attempted  to  show  that  the  human 
conscience  commends  precisely  those  actions  which  tend 
to  secure  general  happiness  and  that  the  notions  of  justice 
and  virtue  prevailing  in  any  age  vary  with  its  social  economy 
and  the  prizes  it  is  able  to  attain.  And,  if  due  allowance 


is  made  for  the  complexity  of  the  subject,  we  may  reason 
ably  admit  that  the  precepts  of  obligatory  morality  bear 
this  relation  to  the  general  welfare  ;  thus  virtue  means 
courage  in  a  soldier,  probity  in  a  merchant,  and  chastity 
in  a  woman.  But  if  we  turn  from  the  morality  required 
of  all  to  the  type  regarded  as  perfect  and  ideal,  we  find 
no  such  correspondence  to  the  benefits  involved.  The 
selfish  imagination  intervenes  here  and  attributes  an 
absolute  and  irrational  value  to  those  figures  that  entertain 
it  with  the  most  absorbing  and  dreamful  emotions.  The 
character  of  Christ,  for  instance,  which  even  the  least 
orthodox  among  us  are  in  the  habit  of  holding  up  as  a 
perfect  model,  is  not  the  character  of  a  benefactor  but  of 
a  martyr,  a  spirit  from  a  higher  world  lacerated  in  its 
passage  through  this  uncomprehending  and  perverse 
existence,  healing  and  forgiving  out  of  sheer  compassion, 
sustained  by  his  inner  affinities  to  the  supernatural,  and 
absolutely  disenchanted  with  all  earthly  or  political  goods. 
Christ  did  not  suffer,  like  Prometheus,  for  having  bestowed 
or  wished  to  bestow  any  earthly  blessing :  the  only 
blessing  he  bequeathed  was  the  image  of  himself  upon 
the  cross,  whereby  men  might  be  comforted  in  their 
own  sorrows,  rebuked  in  their  worldliness,  driven  to  put 
their  trust  in  the  supernatural,  and  united,  by  their 
common  indifference  to  the  world,  in  one  mystic  brother 
hood.  As  men  learned  these  lessons,  or  were  inwardly 
ready  to  learn  them,  they  recognized  more  and  more  clearly 
in  Jesus  their  heaven-sent  redeemer,  and  in  following  their 
own  conscience  and  desperate  idealism  into  the  desert  or 
the  cloister,  in  ignoring  all  civic  virtues  and  allowing  the 
wealth,  art,  and  knowledge  of  the  pagan  world  to  decay, 
they  began  what  they  felt  to  be  an  imitation  of  Christ. 

It  appears  that  the  great  figures  of  art  or  religion, 
together  with  all  historic  and  imaginative  ideals,  advance 
insensibly  on  the  values  they  represent.  The  image 
has  more  lustre  than  the  original,  and  is  often  the  more 
important  and  influential  fact.  A  memorable  thing,  people 
say  in  their  eulogies,  little  thinking  to  touch  the  ground 
of  their  praise.  For  things  are  called  great  because  they 
are  memorable,  they  are  not  remembered  because  they 
were  great.  Fortunate  indeed  was  Achilles  that  Homer 


sang  of  him,  and  fortunate  the  poets  that  make  a  public 
titillation  out  of  their  sorrows  and  ignorance.  The  favours 
of  memory  are  extended  to  those  feeble  realities  and  denied 
to  the  massive  substance  of  daily  experience.  When  life 
dies,  when  what  was  present  becomes  a  memory,  its  ghost 
flits  still  among  the  living,  feared  or  worshipped  not  for 
the  experience  it  once  possessed  but  for  the  aspect  it  now 
wears.  Yet  this  injustice  in  representation,  specula tively 
so  offensive,  is  practically  excusable  ;  for  it  is  in  one 
sense  right  and  useful  that  all  things,  whatever  their 
original  or  inherent  dignity,  should  be  valued  at  each 
moment  only  by  their  present  function  and  utility. 

The  error  involved  in  attributing  values  to  the  past 
is  naturally  aggravated  when  values  are  to  be  assigned 
to  the  future.  In  this  case  imagination  cannot  be  con 
trolled  by  circumstantial  evidence,  and  is  consequently 
the  only  basis  for  judgment.  But  as  the  conception  of 
a  thing  naturally  evokes  an  emotion  different  from  that 
involved  in  its  presence,  ideals  of  what  is  desirable  for 
the  future  contain  no  warrant  that  the  experience  desired 
would,  when  actual,  prove  to  be  acceptable  and  good.  An 
ideal  carries  no  extrinsic  assurance  that  its  realization 
would  be  a  benefit.  To  convince  ourselves  that  an  ideal 
has  rational  authority  and  represents  a  better  experience 
than  the  actual  condition  it  is  contrasted  with,  we  must 
control  the  prophetic  image  by  as  many  circumlocutions 
as  possible.  We  must  buttress  or  modify  our  spontaneous 
judgment  with  all  the  other  judgments  that  the  object 
envisaged  can  prompt.  The  possible  error  remains  even 
then  ;  but  a  practical  mind  will  always  accept  the  risk 
of  error  when  it  has  made  every  possible  correction.  The 
rationality  possible  to  the  will  lies  not  in  its  source  but 
in  its  method.  An  ideal  cannot  wait  for  its  realization  to 
prove  its  validity.  To  deserve  allegiance  it  needs  only 
to  express  completely  what  the  soul  at  present  demands, 
and  to  do  justice  to  all  extant  interests.  That  life  is 
worth  living  is  the  most  necessary  of  assumptions  and, 
were  it  not  assumed,  the  most  impossible  of  conclusions. 
Experience  by  its  dead  weight  of  joy  and  sorrow  can 
neither  inspire  nor  prevent  enthusiasm  ;  only  a  living  ideal 
will  avail  to  attract  the  will  and,  if  realized,  to  satisfy  it. 




THE  utility  of  pain  lies  in  the  warning  it  gives :  in 
trying  to  escape  pain  we  escape  destruction.  That  we 
desire  to  escape  pain  is  certain  ;  its  very  definition  can 
hardly  go  beyond  the  statement  that  pain  is  that  element 
of  feeling  which  we  seek  to  abolish  on  account  of  its  intrinsic 
quality.  That  this  desire,  however,  should  know  how  to 
initiate  remedial  action  is  a  notion  contrary  to  experience 
and  in  itself  unthinkable.  If  pain  could  have  cured  us 
we  should  long  ago  have  been  saved.  The  bitterest 
quintessence  of  pain  is  its  helplessness,  and  our  incapacity 
to  abolish  it.  The  most  intolerable  torments  are  those 
we  feel  gaining  upon  us,  intensifying  and  prolonging  them 
selves  indefinitely.  This  baffling  quality,  so  conspicuous 
in  extreme  agony,  is  present  in  all  pain  and  is  perhaps  its 
essence.  If  we  sought  to  describe  by  a  circumlocution 
what  is  of  course  a  primary  sensation,  we  might  scarcely 
do  better  than  to  say  that  pain  is  consciousness  at  once 
intense  and  empty,  fixing  attention  on  what  contains  no 
character,  and  arrests  all  satisfactions  without  offering 
anything  in  exchange.  The  horror  of  pain  lies  in  its 
intolerable  intensity  and  its  intolerable  tedium.  It  can 
accordingly  be  cured  either  by  sleep  or  by  entertainment. 
In  itself  it  has  no  resource  ;  its  violence  is  quite  helpless 
and  its  vacancy  offers  no  expedients  by  which  it  might 
be  unknotted  and  relieved. 


THERE  is  nothing  to  which  men,  while  they  have  food 
and  drink,  cannot  reconcile  themselves.  They  will  put 
up  with  present  suffering,  with  the  certainty  of  death, 
with  solitude,  with  shame,  with  wrong,  with  the  expecta 
tion  of  eternal  damnation.  In  the  face  of  such  things, 


they  can  not  only  be  merry  for  the  moment,  but  solemnly 
thank  God  for  having  brought  them  into  existence.  Habit 
is  stronger  than  reason,  and  the  respect  for  fact  stronger 
than  the  respect  for  the  ideal ;  nor  would  the  ideal  and 
reason  ever  prevail  did  they  not  make  up  in  persistence 
what  they  lack  in  momentary  energy. 


HAD  all  intelligence  been  developed  in  the  womb,  as  it 
might  have  been,  nothing  essential  could  have  been  learned 
afterwards.  Mankind  would  have  contained  nothing 
but  doctrinaires,  and  the  arts  would  have  stood  still  for 
ever.  Those  human  races  which  are  most  precocious 
are  most  incorrigible  and,  while  they  seem  the  cleverest 
at  first,  prove  ultimately  the  least  intelligent.  In  some 
nations  everybody  is  by  nature  so  astute,  versatile,  and 
sympathetic  that  education  hardly  makes  any  difference 
in  manners  or  mind  ;  and  it  is  there  precisely  that  genera 
tion  follows  generation  without  essential  progress,  and 
no  one  ever  remakes  himself  on  a  better  plan.  Structure 
preformed  is  formed  blindly  ;  the  a  priori  is  as  dangerous 
in  life  as  in  philosophy.  Only  the  cruel  workings  of  com 
pulsion  and  extermination  keep  what  is  spontaneous  in 
any  creature  harmonious  with  the  world  it  is  called  to 
live  in.  Nothing  but  casual  variations  could  permanently 
improve  such  a  creature ;  and  casual  variations  will  seldom 
improve  it. 

To  be  born  half-made  is  an  immense  advantage.  If 
experience  can  co-operate  in  forming  instincts,  and  if 
human  nature  can  be  partly  a  work  of  art,  mastery  can 
be  carried  quickly  to  much  greater  lengths.  This  is  the 
secret  of  man's  pre-eminence.  His  liquid  brain  is  unfit 
for  years  to  control  action  advantageously.  He  has  an 
age  of  play  which  is  his  apprenticeship  ;  and  he  is  formed 
unawares  by  a  series  of  selective  experiments,  of  curious 
gropings,  while  he  is  still  under  tutelage  and  suffers  little 
by  his  mistakes.  It  is  perhaps  the  duller  races,  with  a 


long  childhood  and  a  brooding  mind,  that  bear  the  hopes 
of  the  world  within  them,  if  only  nature  avails  to  execute 
what  she  has  planned  on  so  great  a  scale. 


INTELLIGENCE  is  no  compulsory  possession ;  and  while 
some  of  us  would  gladly  have  more  of  it,  others  find  that 
they  already  have  too  much.  The  tension  of  thought 
distresses  them  and  to  represent  what  they  cannot  and 
would  not  be  is  not  a  natural  function  of  their  spirit.  But 
knowledge  is  not  eating,  and  we  cannot  expect  to  devour 
and  possess  what  we  mean.  Knowledge  is  recognition  of 
something  absent ;  it  is  a  salutation,  not  an  embrace. 
Consciousness  is  the  least  ideal  of  things  when  reason  is 
taken  out  of  it,  and  we  cannot  cease  to  think  and  still 
continue  to  know.  What  you  call  the  evidence  of  sense 
is  pure  confidence  in  reason.  You  would  not  be  so  idiotic 
as  to  see  no  meaning  in  your  sensations  ;  you  will  not 
pin  your  faith  so  unimaginatively  on  momentary  appear 
ance  as  to  deny  that  the  world  exists  when  you  stop  think 
ing  about  it.  You  feel  that  your  intellect  has  wider  scope 
and  has  discovered  many  a  thing  that  goes  on  behind 
the  scenes,  many  a  secret  that  would  escape  a  stupid  and 
gaping  observation.  It  is  the  fool  that  looks  to  look 
and  stops  at  the  barely  visible  :  you  not  only  look  but 
see ;  for  you  understand.  And  intelligence  loves  to 
perceive  ;  water  is  not  more  grateful  to  a  parched  throat 
than  a  principle  of  comprehension  to  a  confused  under 
standing.  Intelligence  is  most  at  home  in  the  ultimate, 
which  is  the  object  of  intent.  Those  realities  which  it 
can  trust  and  continually  recover  are  its  familiar  and 
beloved  companions.  The  mists  that  may  originally 
have  divided  it  from  them,  and  which  psychologists  call 
the  mind,  are  gladly  forgotten  so  soon  as  intelligence  avails 
to  pierce  them,  and  as  friendly  communication  can  be 
established  with  the  real  world. 



THE  life  of  reason  is  no  fair  reproduction  of  the  universe, 
but  the  expression  of  man  alone.  A  theory  of  nature  is 
nothing  but  a  mass  of  observations,  made  with  a  hunter's 
and  an  artist's  eye.  A  mortal  has  no  time  for  sympathy 
with  his  victim  or  his  model ;  and,  beyond  a  certain 
range,  he  has  no  capacity  for  such  sympathy.  As  in 
order  to  live  he  must  devour  one-half  the  world  and  dis 
regard  the  other,  so  in  order  to  think  and  practically 
to  know  he  must  deal  summarily  and  selfishly  with  his 
materials  ;  otherwise  his  intellect  would  melt  again  into 
endless  and  irrevocable  dreams.  Much  of  what  is  valued 
in  science  and  religion  is  not  lodged  in  the  miscellany 
underlying  these  creations  of  reason,  but  is  lodged  rather 
in  the  rational  activity  itself,  and  in  the  intrinsic  beauty 
of  all  symbols  bred  in  a  genial  mind.  Of  course,  if  these 
symbols  had  no  real  points  of  reference,  if  they  were 
symbols  of  nothing,  they  could  have  no  great  claim  to 
consideration  and  no  rational  character ;  at  most  they 
would  be  agreeable  images.  They  are,  however,  at  their 
best  good  symbols  for  diffused  facts  having  a  certain 
order  and  tendency ;  they  render  that  reality  with  a 
difference,  reducing  it  to  a  formula  or  a  myth,  in  which 
its  tortuous  length  and  trivial  detail  can  be  surveyed  to 
advantage  without  undue  waste  or  fatigue.  Symbols  may 
thus  become  eloquent,  vivid,  important,  being  endowed 
with  both  poetic  grandeur  and  practical  truth. 

The  facts  from  which  this  truth  is  borrowed,  if  they 
were  rehearsed  unimaginatively,  in  their  own  flat  infinity, 
would  be  far  from  arousing  the  same  emotions.  The 
human  eye  sees  in  perspective  ;  its  glory  would  vanish 
were  it  reduced  to  a  crawling,  exploring  antenna.  Not 
that  it  loves  to  falsify  anything.  That  to  the  worm  the 
landscape  might  possess  no  light  and  shade,  that  the 
atomic  structure  of  a  mountain  should  be  unpicturable, 
cannot  distress  the  landscape  gardener  nor  the  poet ;  what 
concerns  them  is  the  effect  such  things  may  produce  in  the 
human  fancy,  so  that  the  soul  may  live  in  a  congenial  world. 


Naturalist  and  prophet  are  landscape  painters  on 
canvases  of  their  own  ;  each  is  interested  in  his  own 
perception  and  perspective,  which,  if  he  takes  the  trouble 
to  reflect,  need  not  deceive  him  about  what  the  world 
would  be  if  not  foreshortened  in  that  particular  manner. 
This  special  interpretation  is  nevertheless  precious  and. 
shows  up  the  world  in  that  light  in  which  it  interests 
naturalists  or  prophets  to  see  it.  Their  figments  make 
their  chosen  world,  as  the  painter's  apperceptions  are  the 
breath  of  his  nostrils. 

While  the  relevance  of  the  symbol  is  essential  to  its 
worth — since  otherwise  science  would  be  inapplicable  and 
religion  demoralizing — its  power  and  fascination  lie  in 
acquiring  a  more  and  more  profound  affinity  to  the  human 
mind,  so  long  as  it  can  do  so  without  surrendering  its 
relevance  to  the  facts  of  nature. 

The  function  of  history  or  of  criticism  is  not  passively 
to  reproduce  its  subject-matter.  One  real  world  is  enough. 
Reflection  and  description  are  things  superadded,  things 
which  ought  to  be  more  winged  and  more  selective  than 
what  they  play  upon.  They  are  echoes  of  reality  in  the 
sphere  of  art,  sketches  which  may  achieve  all  the  truth 
appropriate  to  them  without  belying  their  creative  limita 
tions  :  for  their  essence  is  to  be  intellectual  symbols,  at 
once  indicative  and  original. 

The  circumstances  of  life  are  only  the  bases  or  instru 
ments  of  life :  the  fruition  of  life  is  not  in  retrospect,  not 
in  description  of  the  instruments,  but  in  expression  of  the 
spirit  itself,  to  which  those  instruments  may  prove  useful ; 
as  music  is  not  a  criticism  of  violins,  but  a  playing  upon 
them.  This  expression  need  not  resemble  its  ground. 
Experience  is  diversified  by  colours  that  are  not  produced 
by  colours,  sounds  that  are  not  conditioned  by  sounds, 
names  that  are  not  symbols  for  other  names,  fixed  ideal 
objects  that  stand  for  ever-changing  material  processes. 
The  mind  is  fundamentally  lyrical,  inventive,  redundant. 
Its  visions  are  its  own  offspring,  hatched  in  the  warmth 
of  some  favourable  cosmic  gale.  The  ambient  weather 
may  vary,  and  these  visions  be  scattered ;  but  the  ideal 
world  they  pictured  may  some  day  be  revealed  again  to 
some  other  poet  similarly  inspired ;  the  possibility  of 


restoring  it,  or  something  like  it,  is  perpetual.  Perhaps 
human  life  is  not  all  life,  nor  the  landscape  of  earth  the 
only  admired  landscape  in  the  universe ;  perhaps  the 
ancients  who  believed  in  gods  and  spirits  were  nearer  the 
virtual  truth  (however  anthropomorphically  they  may 
have  expressed  themselves)  than  any  philosophy  or  religion 
that  makes  human  affairs  the  centre  and  aim  of  the  world. 
Such  moral  imagination  is  to  be  gained  by  sinking  into 
oneself,  rather  than  by  observing  remote  happenings, 
because  it  is  at  its  heart,  not  at  its  finger-tips,  that  the 
human  soul  touches  matter,  and  is  akin  to  whatever  other 
centres  of  life  may  people  the  infinite. 


SCIENCE  is  nothing  but  developed  perception,  interpreted 
intent,  common-sense  rounded  out  and  minutely  articulated. 
It  is  therefore  as  much  an  instinctive  product,  as  much 
a  stepping  forth  of  human  courage  in  the  dark,  as  is  any 
inevitable  dream  or  impulsive  action.  Like  life  itself, 
like  any  form  of  determinate  existence,  it  is  altogether 
autonomous  and  unjustifiable  from  the  outside.  It  must 
lean  on  its  own  vitality  ;  to  sanction  reason  there  is  only 
reason,  and  to  corroborate  sense  there  is  nothing  but 
sense.  Inferential  thought  is  a  venture  not  to  be  approved 
of,  save  by  a  thought  no  less  venturesome  and  inferential. 
This  is  once  for  all  the  fate  of  a  living  being — it  is  the  very 
essence  of  spirit — to  be  ever  on  the  wing,  borne  by  inner 
forces  toward  goals  of  its  own  imagining,  confined  to  a 
passing  apprehension  of  a  represented  world.  Mind, 
which  calls  itself  the  organ  of  truth,  is  a  permanent  possi 
bility  of  error.  The  encouragement  and  corroboration 
which  science  is  alleged  to  receive  from  moment  to  moment 
may,  for  aught  it  knows,  be  simply  a  more  ingenious  self- 
deception,  a  form  of  that  cumulative  illusion  by  which 
madness  can  confirm  itself,  creating  a  whole  world,  with 
an  endless  series  of  martyrs,  to  bear  witness  to  its  sanity. 

To  insist  on  this  situation  may  seem  idle,   since  no 
positive  doctrine  can  gain  thereby  in  plausibility,  and  no 


particular  line  of  action  in  reasonableness.  Yet  this 
transcendental  exercise,  this  reversion  to  the  immediate, 
may  be  recommended  by  way  of  a  cathartic,  to  free  the 
mind  from  ancient  obstructions  and  make  it  hungrier  and 
more  agile  in  its  rational  faith.  Scepticism  is  harmless 
when  it  is  honest  and  universal ;  it  clears  the  air  and  is 
a  means  of  reorganizing  belief  on  its  natural  foundations. 
Belief  is  an  inevitable  accompaniment  of  practice  and 
intent,  both  of  which  it  will  cling  to  all  the  more  closely 
after  a  thorough  criticism.  When  all  beliefs  are  challenged 
together,  the  just  and  necessary  ones  have  a  chance  to  step 
forward  and  to  re-establish  themselves  alone.  The  doubt 
cast  on  science,  when  it  is  an  ingenuous  and  impartial 
doubt,  will  accordingly  serve  to  show  what  sort  of  thing 
science  is,  and  to  establish  it  on  a  sure  foundation.  Science 
will  then  be  seen  to  be  tentative,  genial,  practical,  and 
humane,  full  of  ideality  and  pathos,  like  every  great  human 

Reason  is  not  indispensable  to  life,  nor  needful  if  living 
anyhow  be  the  sole  and  indeterminate  aim  ;  as  the  exist 
ence  of  animals  and  of  most  men  sufficiently  proves.  In 
so  far  as  man  is  not  a  rational  being  and  does  not  live 
in  and  by  the  mind,  in  so  far  as  his  chance  volitions  and 
dreamful  ideas  roll  by  without  mutual  representation  or 
adjustment,  in  so  far  as  his  instinct  takes  the  lead  and  even 
his  galvanized  action  is  a  form  of  passivity,  he  may  eschew 
science  and  say  that  life  is  not  intellectual.  Yet  reason 
has  the  indomitable  persistence  of  all  natural  tendencies  ; 
it  returns  to  the  attack  as  waves  beat  on  the  shore.  To 
observe  its  defeat  is  already  to  give  it  a  new  embodiment. 


MATHEMATICS,  if  it  were  nothing  more  than  a  pleasure, 
might  conceivably  become  a  vice.  Those  addicted  to  it 
might  be  indulging  an  atavistic  taste  at  the  expense  of 
their  humanity.  It  would  then  be  in  the  position  now 
occupied  by  mythology  and  mysticism.  Even  as  it  is, 
mathematicians  share  with  musicians  a  certain  partiality 



in  their  characters  and  mental  development.  Masters 
in  one  abstract  subject,  they  may  remain  children  in  the 
world  ;  exquisite  manipulators  of  the  ideal,  they  may  be 
erratic  and  clumsy  in  their  earthly  ways.  Immense  as  are 
the  uses  and  wide  the  applications  of  mathematics,  its 
texture  is  too  thin  and  inhuman  to  employ  the  whole  mind 
or  render  it  harmonious.  It  is  a  science  which  Socrates 
rejected  for  its  supposed  want  of  utility  ;  but  perhaps 
he  had  another  ground  in  reserve  to  justify  his  humorous 
prejudice.  He  may  have  felt  that  such  a  science,  if 
admitted,  would  endanger  his  thesis  about  the  identity 
of  virtue  and  knowledge. 


THE  miracle  of  insight  into  another  mind,  as  it  must  seem 
to  those  who  have  not  understood  its  natural  and  accidental 
origin,  extends  only  to  the  limits  of  similar  structure  and 
common  occupation,  so  that  the  distortion  of  insight 
begins  very  near  home.  It  begins  with  constitutional 
divergence  and  deteriorates  rapidly  into  false  imputations 
and  absurd  myths.  It  is  hard  to  understand  the  minds 
of  children  unless  we  retain  unusual  plasticity  and  capacity 
to  play  ;  men  and  women  do  not  really  understand  each 
other,  what  rules  between  them  being  not  so  much  sym 
pathy  as  habitual  trust,  idealization,  or  satire  ;  foreigners' 
minds  are  pure  enigmas,  and  those  attributed  to  animals 
are  a  grotesque  compound  of  ^Esop  and  physiology.  When 
we  come  to  religion  the  ineptitude  of  all  the  feelings  attri 
buted  to  nature  or  the  gods  is  so  egregious  that  a  sober 
critic  can  look  to  such  fables  only  for  a  pathetic  expression 
of  human  sentiment  and  need  ;  while,  even  apart  from  the 
gods,  each  religion  itself  is  quite  unintelligible  to  infidels 
who  have  never  followed  its  worship  sympathetically  or 
learned  by  contagion  the  human  meaning  of  its  sanctions 
and  formulas. 

Language  is  an  artificial  means  of  establishing  unanimity 
and  transferring  thought  from  one  mind  to  another.  Every 
symbol  or  phrase,  like  every  gesture,  throws  the  observer 


into  an  attitude  to  which  a  certain  idea  corresponded  in 
the  speaker ;  to  fall  exactly  into  the  speaker's  attitude 
is  exactly  to  understand.  Every  impediment  to  contagion 
and  imitation  in  expression  is  an  impediment  to  compre 
hension.  For  this  reason  language,  like  ail  art,  becomes 
pale  with  years  ;  words  and  figures  of  speech  lose  their 
contagious  and  suggestive  power.  Even  the  most  inspired 
verse  becomes  in  the  course  of  ages  a  scarcely  legible 
hieroglyphic ;  the  language  it  was  written  in  dies ;  a 
learned  education  and  an  imaginative  effort  are  requisite 
to  catch  even  a  vestige  of  its  original  force.  Nothing  is 
so  irrevocable  as  mind. 

There  is  evidently  one  case,  however,  in  which  the 
pathetic  fallacy  is  not  fallacious,  the  case  in  which  the 
object  observed  happens  to  be  an  animal  similar  to  the 
observer  and  similarly  affected,  as  for  instance  when  a 
flock  or  herd  are  swayed  by  panic  fear.  The  emotion 
which  each  as  he  runs  attributes  to  the  others  is,  as  usual, 
the  emotion  he  feels  himself  in  imitating  them  ;  but  this 
emotion,  fear,  is  the  same  which  in  fact  the  others  are 
then  feeling.  Their  aspect  thus  becomes  the  recognized 
expression  for  the  feeling  which  really  accompanies  it. 
So  in  hand-to-hand  fighting  :  the  intention  and  passion 
which  each  imputes  to  the  other  is  what  he  himself  feels ; 
but  the  imputation  is  probably  just,  since  pugnacity  is 
a  remarkably  contagious  and  monotonous  passion.  It  is 
awakened  by  the  slightest  hostile  suggestion  and  is  greatly 
intensified  by  example  and  emulation ;  those  we  fight 
against  and  those  we  fight  with  arouse  it  concurrently, 
and  the  universal  battle-cry  that  fills  the  air,  and  that 
each  man  instinctively  emits,  is  an  adequate  and  exact 
symbol  for  what  is  passing  in  all  their  souls. 



IT  is  a  mark  of  the  connoisseur  to  be  able  to  read  character 
and  habit  and  to  divine  at  a  glance  all  a  creature's  poten 
tialities.  This  sort  of  penetration  characterizes  the  man 


with  an  eye  for  horse-flesh,  the  dog-fancier,  and  men  and 
women  of  the  world.  It  guides  the  born  leader  in  the 
judgments  he  instinctively  passes  on  his  subordinates 
and  enemies  ;  it  distinguishes  every  good  judge  of  human 
affairs  or  of  natural  phenomena,  who  is  quick  to  detect 
small  but  telling  indications  of  events  past  or  brewing. 
As  the  weather-prophet  reads  the  heavens  so  the  man  of 
experience  reads  other  men.  Nothing  concerns  him  less 
than  their  consciousness  ;  he  can  allow  that  to  run  itself 
off  when  he  is  sure  of  their  temper  and  habits.  A  great 
master  of  affairs  is  usually  unsympathetic.  His  observa 
tion  is  not  in  the  least  dramatic  or  dreamful ;  he  does  not 
yield  himself  to  animal  contagion  or  re-enact  other  people's 
inward  experience.  He  is  too  busy  for  that,  and  too  intent 
on  his  own  purposes.  His  observation,  on  the  contrary, 
is  straight  calculation  and  inference,  and  it  sometimes 
reaches  truths  about  people's  character  and  destiny  which 
they  themselves  are  very  far  from  divining.  Such  appre 
hension  is  masterful  and  odious  to  weaklings,  who  think 
they  know  themselves  because  they  indulge  in  copious 
soliloquy  (which  is  the  discourse  of  brutes  and  madmen), 
but  who  really  know  nothing  of  their  own  capacity,  situa 
tion,  or  fate. 

If  Rousseau,  for  instance,  after  writing  those  Con 
fessions  in  which  candour  and  ignorance  of  self  are  equally 
conspicuous,  had  heard  some  intelligent  friend  like  Hume 
draw  up  in  a  few  words  an  account  of  their  author's  true 
and  contemptible  character,  he  would  have  been  loud 
in  protestations  that  no  such  ignoble  characteristics  existed 
in  his  eloquent  consciousness  ;  and  they  might  not  have 
existed  there,  because  his  consciousness  was  a  histrionic 
thing,  and  as  imperfect  an  expression  of  his  own  nature 
as  of  man's.  When  the  mind  is  irrational  no  practical 
purpose  is  served  by  stopping  to  understand  it,  because 
such  a  mind  is  irrelevant  to  practice,  and  the  principles 
that  guide  the  man's  practice  can  be  as  well  understood 
by  eliminating  his  mind  altogether.  So  a  wise  governor 
ignores  his  subjects'  religion  or  concerns  himself  only 
with  its  economic  and  temperamental  aspects ;  if  the 
real  forces  that  control  life  are  understood,  the  symbols 
that  represent  those  forces  in  the  mind  may  be  disregarded. 


But  such  a  government,  like  that  of  the  British  in  India, 
is  more  practical  than  sympathetic.  While  wise  men 
may  endure  it  for  the  sake  of  their  material  interests, 
they  will  never  love  it  for  itself.  There  is  nothing  sweeter 
than  to  be  sympathized  with,  while  nothing  requires  a 
rarer  intellectual  heroism  than  willingness  to  see  one's 
equation  written  out. 

Nevertheless  this  same  algebraic  sense  for  character 
plays  a  large  part  in  human  friendship.  A  chief  element 
in  friendship  is  trust,  and  trust  is  not  to  be  acquired  by 
reproducing  consciousness  but  only  by  penetrating  to 
the  constitutional  instincts  which,  in  determining  action 
and  habit,  determine  consciousness  as  well.  Fidelity  is 
not  a  property  of  ideas.  It  is  a  virtue  possessed  pre 
eminently  by  nature,  from  the  animals  to  the  seasons 
and  the  stars.  But  fidelity  gives  friendship  its  deepest 
sanctity,  and  the  respect  we  have  for  a  man,  for  his  force, 
ability,  constancy,  and  dignity,  is  no  sentiment  evoked  by 
his  floating  thoughts,  but  an  assurance  founded  on  our 
own  observation  that  his  conduct  and  character  are  to 
be  counted  upon.  Smartness  and  vivacity,  much  emotion 
and  many  conceits,  are  obstacles  both  to  fidelity  and  to 
merit.  There  is  a  high  worth  in  rightly  constituted  natures 
independent  of  the  play  of  mind.  It  consists  in  that 
ingrained  virtue  which  under  given  circumstances  would 
insure  the  noblest  action,  and  with  that  action  of  course 
the  noblest  sentiments  and  ideas ;  ideas  which  would 
arise  spontaneously  and  would  make  more  account  of 
their  objects  than  of  themselves. 



WHEN  men  are  in  the  same  boat  together,  when  a  common 
anxiety,  occupation,  or  sport  unites  them,  they  feel  their 
human  kinship  in  an  intensified  form  without  any  greater 
personal  affinity  subsisting  between  them.  The  same 
effect  is  produced  by  a  common  estrangement  from  the 
rest  of  society.  For  this  reason  comradeship  lasts  no 


longer  than  the  circumstances  that  bring  it  about.  Its 
constancy  is  proportionate  to  the  monotony  of  people's 
lives  and  minds.  There  is  a  lasting  bond  among  school 
fellows,  because  no  one  can  become  a  boy  again  and  have 
a  new  set  of  playmates.  There  is  a  persistent  comrade 
ship  with  one's  countrymen,  especially  abroad,  because 
seldom  is  a  man  pliable  and  polyglot  enough  to  be  at  home 
among  foreigners,  or  really  to  understand  them.  There 
is  an  inevitable  comradeship  with  men  of  the  same  breeding 
or  profession,  however  bad  these  may  be,  because  habits 
soon  monopolize  the  man.  Nevertheless  a  greater  buoyancy, 
a  longer  youth,  a  richer  experience,  would  break  down 
all  these  limits  of  fellowship.  Such  clingings  to  the  familiar 
are  three  parts  dread  of  the  unfamiliar  and  want  of  resource 
in  its  presence,  for  one  part  in  them  of  genuine  loyalty. 
Plasticity  loves  new  moulds  because  it  can  fill  them, 
but  for  a  man  of  sluggish  mind  and  bad  manners  there  is 
decidedly  no  place  like  home. 

Friends  are  generally  of  the  same  sex,  for  when  men 
and  women  agree,  it  is  only  in  their  conclusions  ;  their 
reasons  are  always  different.  So  that  while  intellectual 
harmony  between  men  and  women  is  easily  possible,  its 
delightful  and  magic  quality  lies  precisely  in  the  fact  that 
it  does  not  arise  from  mutual  understanding,  but  is  a  con 
spiracy  of  alien  essences  and  a  kissing,  as  it  were,  in  the 
dark.  The  human  race,  in  its  intellectual  life,  is  organized 
like  the  bees  :  the  masculine  soul  is  a  worker,  sexually 
atrophied,  and  essentially  dedicated  to  impersonal  and  uni 
versal  arts  ;  the  feminine  is  a  queen,  infinitely  fertile,  omni 
present  in  its  brooding  industry,  but  passive  and  abounding 
in  intuitions  without  method  and  passions  without  justice. 
Friendship  with  a  woman  is  therefore  apt  to  be  more  or 
less  than  friendship  :  less,  because  there  is  no  intellectual 
parity  ;  more,  because  (even  when  the  relation  remains 
wholly  dispassionate,  as  in  respect  to  old  ladies)  there  is 
something  mysterious  and  oracular  about  a  woman's 
mind  which  inspires  a  certain  instinctive  deference  and 
puts  it  out  of  the  question  to  judge  what  she  says  by 
masculine  standards.  She  has  a  kind  of  sibylline  intuition 
and  the  right  to  be  irrationally  a  propos.  There  is  a 
gallantry  of  the  mind  which  pervades  all  conversation 


with  a  lady,  as  there  is  a  natural  courtesy  towards  children 
and  mystics  ;  but  such  a  habit  of  respectful  concession, 
marking  as  it  does  an  intellectual  alienation  as  profound, 
though  not  as  complete,  as  that  which  separates  us  from 
the  dumb  animals,  is  radically  incompatible  with  friendship. 



TRUE  love,  it  used  to  be  said,  is  love  at  first  sight.  Manners 
have  much  to  do  with  such  incidents,  and  the  race  which 
happens  to  set  at  a  given  time  the  fashion  in  literature 
makes  its  temperament  public  and  exercises  a  sort  of 
contagion  over  all  men's  fancies.  If  women  are  rarely 
seen  and  ordinarily  not  to  be  spoken  to  ;  if  all  imagination 
has  to  build  upon  is  a  furtive  glance  or  casual  motion, 
people  fall  in  love  at  first  sight.  For  they  must  fall  in 
love  somehow,  and  any  stimulus  is  enough  if  none  more 
powerful  is  forthcoming.  When  society,  on  the  contrary, 
allows  constant  and  easy  intercourse  between  the  sexes,  a 
first  impression,  if  not  reinforced,  will  soon  be  hidden  and 
obliterated  by  others.  Acquaintance  becomes  necessary 
for  love  when  it  is  necessary  for  memory.  But  what  makes 
true  love  is  not  the  information  conveyed  by  acquaintance, 
not  any  circumstantial  charms  that  may  be  therein  dis 
covered  :  it  is  still  a  deep  and  dumb  instinctive  affinity, 
an  inexplicable  emotion  seizing  the  heart,  an  influence 
organizing  the  world,  like  a  luminous  crystal,  about  one 
magic  point.  So  that  although  love  seldom  springs  up 
suddenly  in  these  days  into  anything  like  a  full-blown 
passion,  it  is  sight,  it  is  presence,  that  makes  in  time  a 
conquest  over  the  heart ;  for  all  virtues,  sympathies, 
confidences  will  fail  to  move  a  man  to  tenderness  and  to 
worship  unless  a  poignant  effluence  from  the  object  envelops 
him,  so  that  he  begins  to  walk,  as  it  were,  in  a  dream. 

Not  to  believe  in  love  is  a  great  sign  of  dulness.  There 
are  some  people  so  indirect  and  lumbering  that  they  think 
all  real  affection  must  rest  on  circumstantial  evidence. 
But  a  finely  constituted  being  is  sensitive  to  its  deepest 


affinities.  This  is  precisely  what  refinement  consists  in, 
that  we  may  feel  in  things  immediate  and  infinitesimal  a 
sure  premonition  of  things  ultimate  and  important.  Fine 
senses  vibrate  at  once  to  harmonies  which  it  may  take 
long  to  verify  ;  so  sight  is  finer  than  touch,  and  thought 
than  sensation.  Well-bred  instinct  meets  reason  half-way, 
and  is  prepared  for  the  consonances  that  may  follow. 
Beautiful  things,  when  taste  is  formed,  are  obviously  and 
unaccountably  beautiful.  The  grounds  we  may  bring 
ourselves  to  assign  for  our  preferences  are  discovered  by 
analysing  those  preferences,  and  articulate  judgments 
follow  upon  emotions  which  they  ought  to  express,  but 
which  they  sometimes  sophisticate.  So  too  the  reasons 
we  give  for  love  either  express  what  it  feels  or  else  are 
insincere,  attempting  to  justify  at  the  bar  of  reason  and 
convention  something  which  is  far  more  primitive  than 
they  and  underlies  them  both. 

True  instinct  can  dispense  with  such  excuses.  It 
appeals  to  the  event  and  is  justified  by  the  response  which 
nature  makes  to  it.  It  is  of  course  far  from  infallible ; 
it  cannot  dominate  circumstances,  and  has  no  discursive 
knowledge  ;  but  it  is  presumably  true,  and  what  it  fore 
knows  is  always  essentially  possible.  Unrealizable  it 
may  indeed  be  in  the  jumbled  context  of  this  world,  where 
the  Fates,  like  an  absent-minded  printer,  seldom  allow  a 
single  line  to  stand  perfect  and  unmarred. 

The  profoundest  affinities  are  those  most  readily  felt, 
and  they  remain  a  background  and  standard  for  all  happi 
ness.  If  we  trace  them  out  we  succeed.  If  we  put  them 
by,  although  in  other  respects  we  may  call  ourselves  happy, 
we  inwardly  know  that  we  have  dismissed  the  ideal,  and 
all  that  was  essentially  possible  has  not  been  realized. 
Love  in  that  case  still  owns  a  hidden  and  potential  object, 
and  we  sanctify,  perhaps,  whatever  kindnesses  or  partialities 
we  indulge  in  by  a  secret  loyalty  to  something  impersonal 
and  unseen.  Such  reserve,  such  religion,  would  not  have 
been  necessary  had  things  responded  to  our  first  expecta 
tions.  We  might  then  have  identified  the  ideal  with  the 
object  that  happened  to  call  it  forth.  The  life  of  reason 
might  have  been  led  instinctively,  and  we  might  have 
been  guided  by  nature  herself  into  the  ways  of  peace. 

LOVE  41 

As  it  is,  circumstances,  false  steps,  or  the  mere  lapse 
of  time,  force  us  to  shuffle  our  affections  and  take  them 
as  they  come,  or  as  we  are  suffered  to  indulge  them.  A 
mother  is  followed  by  a  boyish  friend,  a  friend  by  a  girl, 
a  girl  by  a  wife,  a  wife  by  a  child,  a  child  by  an  idea.  A 
divinity  passes  through  these  various  temples  ;  they  may 
all  remain  standing,  and  we  may  continue  our  cult  in  them 
without  outward  change,  long  after  the  god  has  fled  from 
the  last  into  his  native  heaven.  We  may  try  to  convince 
ourselves  that  we  have  lost  nothing  when  we  have  lost  all. 
We  may  take  comfort  in  praising  the  mixed  and  perfunctory 
attachments  which  cling  to  us  by  force  of  habit  and  duty, 
repeating  the  empty  names  of  creatures  that  have  long 
ceased  to  be  what  we  once  could  love,  and  assuring  our 
selves  that  we  have  remained  constant,  without  admitting 
that  the  world,  which  is  in  irreparable  flux,  has  from  the 
first  been  betraying  us. 

Ashamed  of  being  so  deeply  deceived,  we  may  try  to 
smile  cynically  at  the  glory  that  once  shone  upon  us, 
and  call  it  a  dream.  But  cynicism  is  wasted  on  the  ideal. 
There  is  indeed  no  idol  ever  identified  with  the  ideal  which 
honest  experience,  even  without  cynicism,  will  not  some 
day  unmask  and  discredit.  Every  real  object  must  cease 
to  be  what  it  seemed,  and  none  could  ever  be  what  the 
whole  soul  desired.  Yet  what  the  soul  desires  is  nothing 
arbitrary.  Life  is  no  objectless  dream.  Everything  that 
satisfies  at  all,  even  if  partially  and  for  an  instant,  justifies 
aspiration  and  rewards  it.  Existence,  however,  cannot  be 
arrested  ;  and  only  the  transmissible  forms  of  things  can 
endure,  to  match  the  transmissible  faculties  which  living 
beings  hand  down  to  one  another.  The  ideal  is  accordingly 
significant,  perpetual,  and  as  constant  as  the  nature  it 
expresses ;  but  it  can  never  itself  exist,  nor  can  its 
particular  embodiments  endure. 

Love  is  accordingly  only  half  an  illusion ;  the  lover, 
but  not  his  love,  is  deceived.  His  madness,  as  Plato 
taught,  is  divine  ;  for  though  it  be  folly  to  identify  the 
idol  with  the  god,  faith  in  the  god  is  inwardly  justified. 
That  egregious  idolatry  may  therefore  be  interpreted 
ideally  and  given  a  symbolic  scope  worthy  of  its  natural 
causes  and  of  the  mystery  it  comes  to  celebrate.  The 


lover  knows  much  more  about  absolute  good  and  universal 
beauty  than  any  logician  or  theologian,  unless  the  latter, 
too,  be  lovers  in  disguise.  Logical  universals  are  terms 
in  discourse,  without  vital  ideality,  while  traditional  gods 
are  at  best  natural  existences,  more  or  less  indifferent  facts. 
What  the  lover  comes  upon,  on  the  contrary,  is  truly 
persuasive,  and  witnesses  to  itself,  so  that  he  worships 
from  the  heart  and  beholds  what  he  worships.  That 
the  true  object  is  no  natural  being,  but  an  ideal  form 
essentially  eternal  and  capable  of  endless  embodiments,  is 
far  from  abolishing  its  worth  ;  on  the  contrary,  this  fact 
makes  love  ideally  relevant  to  generation,  by  which  the 
human  soul  and  body  may  be  for  ever  renewed,  and  at 
the  same  time  makes  it  a  thing  for  large  thoughts  to  be 
focussed  upon,  a  thing  representing  all  rational  aims. 

Whenever  this  ideality  is  absent  and  a  lover  sees  nothing 
in  his  mistress  but  what  every  one  else  may  find  in  her, 
loving  her  honestly  in  her  unvarnished  and  accidental 
person,  there  is  a  friendly  and  humorous  affection,  admirable 
in  itself,  but  no  passion  or  bewitchment  of  love  ;  she  is  a 
member  of  his  group,  not  a  spirit  in  his  pantheon.  Such 
an  affection  may  be  altogether  what  it  should  be  ;  it  may 
bring  a  happiness  all  the  more  stable  because  the  heart 
is  quite  whole,  and  no  divine  shaft  has  pierced  it.  It  is 
hard  to  staunch  wounds  inflicted  by  a  god.  The  glance  of 
an  ideal  love  is  terrible  and  glorious,  foreboding  death  and 
immortality  together.  Love  could  not  be  called  divine 
without  platitude  if  it  regarded  nothing  but  its  nominal 
object ;  to  be  divine  it  must  not  envisage  an  accidental 
good  but  the  principle  of  goodness,  that  which  gives  other 
goods  their  ultimate  meaning. 

Love  is  a  true  natural  religion  ;  it  has  a  visible  cult, 
it  is  kindled  by  natural  beauties  and  bows  to  the  best 
symbol  it  may  find  for  its  hope  ;  it  sanctifies  a  natural 
mystery ;  and,  finally,  when  understood,  it  recognizes 
that  what  it  worshipped  under  a  figure  was  truly  the 
principle  of  all  good. 

The  loftiest  edifices  need  the  deepest  foundations. 
Love  would  never  take  so  high  a  flight  unless  it  sprung 
from  something  profound  and  elementary.  It  is  accordingly 
most  truly  love  when  it  is  irresistible  and  fatal.  The 

LOVE  43 

substance  of  all  passion,  if  we  could  gather  it  together, 
would  be  the  basis  of  all  ideals,  to  which  all  goods  would 
have  to  refer.  Lovers  are  vividly  aware  of  this  fact  :  their 
ideal,  apparently  so  inarticulate,  seems  to  them  to  include 
everything.  It  shares  the  mystical  quality  of  all  primitive 
life.  Sophisticated  people  can  hardly  understand  how 
vague  experience  is  at  bottom,  and  how  truly  that  vague 
ness  supports  whatever  clearness  is  afterward  attained. 
They  cling  to  the  notion  that  nothing  can  have  a  spiritual 
scope  that  does  not  spring  from  reflection.  But  in  that 
case  life  itself,  which  brings  reflection  about,  would  never 
support  spiritual  interests,  and  all  that  is  moral  would  be 
unnatural  and  consequently  self-destructive.  In  truth,  all 
spiritual  interests  are  supported  by  animal  life  ;  in  this  the 
generative  function  is  fundamental ;  and  it  is  therefore 
no  paradox,  but  something  altogether  fitting,  that  if  that 
function  realized  all  it  comprises,  nothing  human  would 
remain  outside.  Such  an  ultimate  fulfilment  would  differ 
of  course  from  a  first  satisfaction,  just  as  all  that  repro 
duction  reproduces  differs  from  the  reproductive  function 
itself,  and  vastly  exceeds  it.  All  organs  and  activities  which 
are  inherited,  in  a  sense  grow  out  of  the  reproductive 
process  and  serve  to  clothe  it ;  so  that  when  the  generative 
energy  is  awakened  all  that  can  ever  be  is  virtually  called 
up  and,  so  to  speak,  made  consciously  potential ;  and 
love  yearns  for  the  universe  of  values. 

This  secret  is  gradually  revealed  to  those  who  are 
inwardly  attentive  and  allow  love  to  teach  them  something. 
A  man  who  has  truly  loved,  though  he  may  come  to  recog 
nize  the  thousand  incidental  illusions  into  which  love 
may  have  led  him,  will  not  recant  its  essential  faith.  He 
will  keep  his  sense  for  the  ideal  and  his  power  to  worship. 
As  a  harp,  made  to  vibrate  to  the  fingers,  gives  some 
music  to  every  wind,  so  the  nature  of  man,  necessarily 
susceptible  to  woman,  becomes  simultaneously  sensitive 
to  other  influences,  and  capable  of  tenderness  toward  every 
object.  A  philosopher,  a  soldier,  and  a  courtesan  will 
express  the  same  religion  in  different  ways.  In  fortunate 
cases  love  may  glide  imperceptibly  into  settled  domestic 
affections,  giving  them  henceforth  a  touch  of  ideality ; 
for  when  love  dies  in  the  odour  of  sanctity  people  venerate 


his  relics.  In  other  cases  allegiance  to  the  ideal  may 
appear  more  sullenly,  breaking  out  in  whims,  or  in  little 
sentimental  practices  which  might  seem  half-conventional. 
Again,  it  may 'inspire  a  religious  conversion,  charitable 
works,  or  even  artistic  labours.  Nature  also  is  often  a 
second  mistress  that  consoles  us  for  the  loss  of  a  first. 

In  all  these  ways  people  attempt  more  or  less  seriously 
to  lead  the  life  of  reason,  expressing  outwardly  allegiance 
to  whatever  in  their  minds  has  come  to  stand  for  the  ideal. 
The  machinery  which  serves  reproduction  thus  finds 
kindred  but  higher  uses,  as  every  organ  does  in  a  liberal 
life  ;  and  what  Plato  called  a  desire  for  birth  in  beauty 
may  be  sublimated  even  more,  until  it  yearns  for  an  ideal 
immortality  in  a  transfigured  world,  a  world  made  worthy 
of  that  love  which  its  children  have  so  often  lavished  on  it 
in  their  dreams. 





EXPERIENCE  has  repeatedly  confirmed  that  well-known 
maxim  of  Bacon's,  that  "  a  little  philosophy  inclineth 
man's  mind  to  atheism,  but  depth  in  philosophy  bringeth 
men's  minds  about  to  religion."  In  every  age  the  most 
comprehensive  thinkers  have  found  in  the  religion  of  their 
time  and  country  something  they  could  accept,  interpreting 
and  illustrating  that  religion  so  as  to  give  it  depth  and 
universal  application.  Even  the  heretics  and  atheists,  if 
they  have  had  profundity,  turn  out  after  a  while  to  be 
forerunners  of  some  new  orthodoxy.  What  they  rebel 
against  is  a  religion  alien  to  their  nature  ;  they  are  atheists 
only  by  accident,  and  relatively  to  a  convention  which 
inwardly  offends  them,  but  they  yearn  mightily  in  their 
own  souls  after  the  religious  acceptance  of  a  world  inter 
preted  in  their  own  fashion.  So  it  appears  in  the  end  that 
their  atheism  and  loud  protestation  were  in  fact  the  hastier 
part  of  their  thought,  since  what  emboldened  them  to 
deny  the  poor  world's  faith  was  that  they  were  too  impatient 
to  understand  it.  Indeed,  the  enlightenment  common  to 
young  wits  and  worm-eaten  old  satirists,  who  plume 
themselves  on  detecting  the  scientific  ineptitude  of  religion 
— something  which  the  blindest  half  see — is  not  nearly 
enlightened  enough  :  it  points  to  notorious  facts  incom 
patible  with  religious  tenets  literally  taken,  but  it  leaves 
unexplored  the  habits  of  thought  from  which  those  tenets 
sprang,  their  original  meaning,  and  their  true  function. 
Such  studies  would  bring  the  sceptic  face  to  face  with  the 
mystery  and  pathos  of  mortal  existence.  They  would 
make  him  understand  why  religion  is  so  profoundly  moving 
and  in  a  sense  so  profound!}7  just.  There  must  needs  be 



something  humane  and  necessary  in  an  influence  that  has 
become  the  most  general  sanction  of  virtue,  the  chief 
occasion  for  art  and  philosophy,  and  the  source,  perhaps,  of 
the  best  human  happiness.  If  nothing,  as  Hooker  said, 
is  "so  malapert  as  a  splenetic  religion,"  a  sour  irreligion 
is  almost  as  perverse. 

At  the  same  time,  when  Bacon  penned  the  sage  epigram 
we  have  quoted  he  forgot  to  add  that  the  God  to  whom 
depth  in  philosophy  brings  back  men's  minds  is  far  from 
being  the  same  from  whom  a  little  philosophy  estranges 
them.  It  would  be  pitiful  indeed  if  mature  reflection  bred 
no  better  conceptions  than  those  which  have  drifted  down 
the  muddy  stream  of  time,  where  tradition  and  passion 
have  jumbled  everything  together.  Traditional  concep 
tions,  when  they  are  felicitous,  may  be  adopted  by  the 
poet,  but  they  must  be  purified  by  the  moralist  and  dis 
integrated  by  the  philosopher.  Each  religion,  so  dear 
to  those  whose  life  it  sanctifies,  and  fulfilling  so  necessary 
a  function  in  the  society  that  has  adopted  it,  necessarily 
contradicts  every  other  religion,  and  probably  contradicts 
itself.  The  sciences  are  necessarily  allies,  but  religions, 
like  languages,  are  necessarily  rivals.  What  religion  a 
man  shall  have  is  a  historical  accident,  quite  as  much  as 
what  language  he  shall  speak.  In  the  rare  circumstances 
where  a  choice  is  possible,  he  may,  with  some  difficulty, 
make  an  exchange  ;  but  even  then  he  is  only  adopting 
a  new  convention  which  may  be  more  agreeable  to  his 
personal  temper  but  which  is  essentially  as  arbitrary  as 
the  old. 

The  attempt  to  speak  without  speaking  any  particular 
language  is  not  more  hopeless  than  the  attempt  to  have  a 
religion  that  shall  be  no  religion  in  particular.  A  courier's 
or  a  dragoman's  speech  may  indeed  be  often  unusual  and 
drawn  from  disparate  sources,  not  without  some  mixture 
of  personal  originality ;  but  that  private  jargon  will  have 
a  meaning  only  because  of  its  analogy  to  one  or  more 
conventional  languages  and  its  obvious  derivation  from 
them.  So  travellers  from  one  religion  to  another,  people 
who  have  lost  their  spiritual  nationality,  may  often  retain 
a  neutral  and  confused  residuum  of  belief,  which  they  may 
egregiously  regard  as  the  essence  of  all  religion,  so  little 


may  they  remember  the  graciousness  and  naturalness  of 
that  ancestral  accent  which  a  perfect  religion  should  have. 
Yet  a  moment's  probing  of  the  conceptions  surviving  in 
such  minds  will  show  them  to  be  nothing  but  vestiges 
of  old  beliefs,  creases  which  thought,  even  if  emptied  of 
all  dogmatic  tenets,  has  not  been  able  to  smooth  away  at 
its  first  unfolding.  Later  generations,  if  they  have  any 
religion  at  all,  will  be  found  either  to  revert  to  ancient 
authority,  or  to  attach  themselves  spontaneously  to  some 
thing  wholly  novel  and  immensely  positive,  to  some  faith 
promulgated  by  a  fresh  genius  and  passionately  embraced 
by  a  converted  people.  Thus  every  living  and  healthy 
religion  has  a  marked  idiosyncrasy.  Its  power  consists 
in  its  special  and  surprising  message  and  in  the  bias  which 
that  revelation  gives  to  life.  The  vistas  it  opens  and  the 
mysteries  it  propounds  are  another  world  to  live  in  ;  and 
another  world  to  live  in — whether  we  expect  ever  to  pass 
wholly  into  it  or  no — is  what  we  mean  by  having  a  religion. 
Whoever  it  was  that  searched  the  heavens  with  his 
telescope  and  could  find  no  God,  would  not  have  found 
the  human  mind  if  he  had  searched  the  brain  with  a 
microscope.  Yet  God  existed  in  man's  apprehension  long 
before  mathematics  or  even,  perhaps,  before  the  vault  of 
heaven  ;  for  the  objectification  of  the  whole  mind,  with  its 
passions  and  motives,  naturally  precedes  that  abstraction 
by  which  the  idea  of  a  material  world  is  drawn  from  the 
chaos  of  experience,  an  abstraction  which  culminates  in 
such  atomic  and  astronomical  theories  as  science  is  now 
familiar  with.  The  sense  for  life  in  things,  be  they  small 
or  great,  is  not  derived  from  the  abstract  idea  of  their 
bodies  but  is  an  ancient  concomitant  to  that  idea,  insepar 
able  from  it  until  it  became  abstract.  The  failure  to  find 
God  among  the  stars,  or  even  the  attempt  to  find  him  there, 
does  not  indicate  that  human  experience  affords  no  avenue 
to  the  idea  of  God — for  history  proves  the  contrary — but 
indicates  rather  the  atrophy  in  this  particular  man  of  the 
imaginative  faculty  by  which  his  race  had  attained  to 
that  idea.  Such  an  atrophy  might  indeed  become  general, 
and  God  would  in  that  case  disappear  from  human  experi 
ence  as  music  would  disappear  if  universal  deafness 
attacked  the  race.  Such  an  event  is  made  conceivable 


by  the  loss  of  allied  imaginative  habits,  which  is  observ 
able  in  historic  times.  Yet  possible  variations  in  human 
faculty  do  not  involve  the  illegitimacy  of  such  faculties 
as  actually  subsist  ;  and  the  abstract  world  known  to 
science,  unless  it  dries  up  the  ancient  fountains  of  poetry 
by  its  habitual  presence  in  thought,  does  not  remove  those 
parallel  dramatizations  or  abstractions  which  experience 
may  have  suggested  to  men.  In  fact  people  seldom  take 
a  myth  in  the  same  sense  in  which  they  would  take  an 
empirical  truth.  All  the  doctrines  that  have  flourished 
in  the  world  about  immortality  have  hardly  affected  men's 
natural  sentiment  in  the  face  of  death,  a  sentiment  which 
those  doctrines,  if  taken  seriously,  ought  wholly  to  reverse. 
Men  almost  universally  have  acknowledged  a  Providence, 
but  that  fact  has  had  no  force  to  destroy  natural  aversions 
and  fears  in  the  presence  of  events  ;  and  yet,  if  Provid 
ence  had  ever  been  really  trusted,  those  preferences  would 
all  have  lapsed,  being  seen  to  be  blind,  rebellious,  and 
blasphemous.  Prayer,  among  sane  people,  has  never 
superseded  practical  efforts  to  secure  the  desired  end ; 
a  proof  that  the  sphere  of  expression  was  never  really 
confused  with  that  of  reality.  Indeed,  such  a  confusion, 
if  it  had  passed  from  theory  to  practice,  would  have 
changed  mythology  into  madness.  With  rare  exceptions 
this  declension  has  not  occurred  and  myths  have  been 
taken  with  a  grain  of  salt  which  not  only  made  them 
digestible,  but  heightened  their  savour. 

It  is  customary  to  judge  religions  and  philosophies  by 
their  truth,  which  is  seldom  their  strong  point ;  yet  the 
application  of  that  unsympathetic  criterion  is  not  unjust, 
since  they  aspire  to  be  true,  maintain  that  they  are  so,  and 
forbid  any  opposed  view,  no  matter  how  obvious  and 
inevitable,  to  be  called  true  in  their  stead.  But  belief, 
which  we  have  come  to  associate  with  religion,  belongs 
really  to  science  ;  myths  are  not  believed  in,  they  are 
conceived  and  understood.  To  demand  belief  for  an  idea 
is  already  to  contrast  interpretation  with  knowledge  ;  it 
is  to  assert  that  that  idea  has  scientific  truth.  Allegories, 
however,  have  their  virtue ;  and  when  religions  and  philo 
sophies  are  dead,  or  when  we  are  so  removed  from  them  by 
time  or  training  that  the  question  of  their  truth  is  not  a 


living  question  for  us,  they  do  not  on  that  account  lose  all 
their  interest ;  then,  in  fact,  for  the  first  time  they  manifest 
their  virtues  to  the  unbeliever.  He  sees  that  they  are 
expressions  of  human  genius  ;  that  however  false  to  their 
subject-matter  they  may  be,  like  the  conventions  of  art 
they  are  true  to  the  eye  and  to  the  spirit  that  fashioned 
them.  And  as  nothing  in  the  world,  not  even  the  truth, 
is  so  interesting  as  human  genius,  these  incredible  or 
obsolete  religions  and  philosophies  become  delightful  to  us. 
The  sting  is  gone  out  of  their  errors,  which  no  longer 
threaten  to  delude  us,  and  they  have  acquired  a  beauty 
invisible  to  the  eye  of  their  authors,  because  of  the  very 
refraction  which  the  truth  suffered  in  that  vital  medium. 
We  see  that  they  are  a  kind  of  poetry  in  which  people  half 
believed,  because  it  intervened  in  their  lives  ;  a  poetry 
that  beautified  and  justified  to  their  minds  the  unfathomed 
facts  of  their  ancestral  worship,  their  social  bonds,  and 
their  personal  conscience. 


RELIGIOUS  doctrines  would  do  well  to  withdraw  their 
pretension  to  be  dealing  with  matters  of  fact.  That 
pretension  is  not  only  the  source  of  the  conflicts  of  religion 
with  science  and  of  the  vain  and  bitter  controversies  of 
sects  ;  it  is  also  the  cause  of  the  impurity  and  incoherence 
of  religion  in  the  soul,  when  it  seeks  its  sanctions  in  the 
sphere  of  existence,  and  forgets  that  its  proper  concern 
is  to  express  the  ideal.  For  the  dignity  of  religion,  like 
that  of  poetry,  lies  precisely  in  its  ideal  adequacy,  in  its  fit 
rendering  of  the  meanings  and  values  of  life,  in  its  antici 
pation  of  perfection  ;  so  that  the  excellence  of  religion  is 
due  to  an  idealization  of  experience  which,  while  making 
religion  noble  if  treated  as  poetry,  makes  it  necessarily 
false  if  treated  as  science.  Its  function  is  rather  to  draw 
from  reality  materials  for  an  image  of  that  ideal  to  which 
reality  ought  to  conform,  and  to  make  us  citizens,  by 
anticipation,  in  the  world  we  crave. 

The  mass  of  mankind  is  divided  into  two  classes— the 


Sancho  Panzas  who  have  a  sense  for  reality,  but  no  ideals, 
and  the  Don  Quixotes  with  a  sense  for  ideals,  but  mad. 
The  expedient  of  recognizing  facts  as  facts  and  accept 
ing  ideals  as  ideals,  although  apparently  simple  enough, 
seems  to  elude  the  normal  human  power  of  discrimination. 

The  liberal  school  that  attempts  to  fortify  religion  by 
minimizing  its  expression,  both  theoretic  and  devotional, 
seems  to  be  merely  impoverishing  religious  symbols  and 
vulgarizing  religious  aims  ;  it  subtracts  from  faith  that 
imagination  by  which  faith  becomes  an  interpretation 
and  idealization  of  human  life,  and  retains  only  a  stark 
and  superfluous  principle  of  superstition.  For  meagre 
and  abstract  as  such  a  religion  may  be,  it  contains  all  the 
venom  of  absolute  pretensions  ;  it  is  no  less  cursed  than 
the  more  developed  systems  with  a  controversial  unrest 
and  with  a  consequent  undertone  of  constraint  and  suspicion. 
It  tortures  itself  with  the  same  circular  proofs  in  its 
mistaken  ambition  to  enter  the  plane  of  vulgar  reality  and 
escape  its  native  element  of  ideas.  It  casts  a  greater 
blight  than  would  a  civilized  orthodoxy  on  any  joyous 
freedom  of  thought.  For  the  respect  exacted  by  an 
establishment  is  limited  and  external,  and  not  greater  than 
its  traditional  forms  probably  deserve,  as  normal  expres 
sions  of  human  feeling  and  apt  symbols  of  moral  truth. 
A  reasonable  deference  once  shown  to  authority,  the  mind 
remains,  under  such  an  establishment,  inwardly  and 
happily  free ;  the  conscience  is  not  intimidated,  the 
imagination  is  not  tied  up.  But  the  preoccupations  of 
a  hungry  and  abstract  fanaticism  poison  the  liberty 
nominally  allowed,  bias  all  vision,  and  turn  philosophy 
itself,  which  should  be  the  purest  of  delights  and  consola 
tions,  into  an  obsession  and  a  burden  to  the  soul.  In  such 
a  spectral  form  religious  illusion  does  not  cease  to  be  illusion. 
Mythology  cannot  become  science  by  being  reduced  in 
bulk,  but  it  may  cease,  as  a  mythology,  to  be  worth  having. 

On  the  other  hand,  the  positivistic  school  of  criticism 
would  seem  to  have  overlooked  the  highest  function  of 
human  nature.  The  environing  world  can  justify  itself 
to  the  mind  only  by  the  free  life  which  it  fosters  there. 
All  observation  is  observation  of  brute  fact,  all  discipline 
is  mere  repression,  until  these  facts  digested  and  this 


discipline  embodied  in  humane  impulses  become  the 
starting-point  for  a  creative  movement  of  the  imagination, 
the  firm  basis  for  ideal  constructions  in  society,  religion, 
and  art.  Only  as  conditions  of  these  human  activities 
can  the  facts  of  nature  and  history  become  morally  in 
telligible  or  practically  important.  In  themselves  they 
are  trivial  incidents,  gossip  of  the  Fates,  cacklings  of  their 
inexhaustible  garrulity.  To  regard  the  function  of  man  as 
accomplished  when  these  chance  happenings  have  been 
recorded  by  him  or  contributed  to  by  his  impulsive  action, 
is  to  ignore  his  reason,  his  privilege — shared  for  the  rest 
with  every  living  creature — of  using  nature  as  food  and 
substance  for  his  own  life.  This  human  life  is  not  merely 
animal  and  passionate.  The  best  and  keenest  part  of  it 
consists  in  that  very  gift  of  creation  and  government  which, 
together  with  all  the  transcendental  functions  of  his  own 
mind,  man  has  significantly  attributed  to  God  as  to  his 
highest  ideal.  Not  to  see  in  this  activity  the  purpose  and 
standard  of  all  life  is  to  have  left  human  nature  half  unread. 
It  is  to  look  to  the  removal  of  certain  incidental  obstacles 
in  the  work  of  reason  as  to  the  solution  of  its  positive 
tasks.  In  comparison  with  such  apathetic  naturalism, 
all  the  errors  and  follies  of  religion  are  worthy  of  indulgent 
sympathy,  since  they  represent  an  effort,  however  mis 
guided,  to  interpret  and  to  use  the  materials  of  experience 
for  moral  ends,  and  to  measure  the  value  of  reality  by  its 
relation  to  the  ideal. 


RELIGIONS  and  philosophies  may  be  capable  of  assimilating 
a  great  amount  of  wisdom  even  if  their  first  foundation  is 
folly.  When  the  mind,  for  want  of  a  better  vocabulary, 
is  reduced  to  using  symbols,  it  pours  into  them  a  part  of 
its  own  life  and  makes  them  beautiful.  Their  loss  is  a  real 
blow,  while  the  incapacity  that  called  for  them  endures  ; 
and  the  soul  seems  to  be  crippled  by  losing  its  crutches. 
For  this  reason  religions  do  not  disappear  when  they  are 
discredited  ;  it  is  requisite  that  they  should  be  replaced. 


For  a  thousand  years  the  augurs  may  have  laughed ;  they 
were  bound  nevertheless  to  stand  at  their  posts  until  the 
monks  came  to  relieve  them. 

The  attempt  to  subsume  the  natural  order  under  the 
moral  is  like  attempts  to  establish  a  government  of  the 
parent  by  a  child — something  children  are  not  averse  to. 
But  such  follies  are  the  follies  of  an  intelligent  and  eager 
creature,  restless  in  a  world  it  cannot  at  once  master  and 
comprehend.  They  are  not  due  to  lack  of  intelligence  or  of 
faith  in  law,  but  rather  to  a  premature  vivacity  in  catching 
at  laws,  a  vivacity  misled  by  inadequate  information.  The 
hunger  for  facile  wisdom  is  the  root  of  these  errors.  Men 
become  superstitious,  not  because  they  have  too  much  imagi 
nation,  but  because  they  are  not  aware  that  they  have  any ; 
and  even  the  best  philosophers  seldom  perceive  the  poetic 
merit  of  their  systems. 


IT  is  pathetic  to  observe  how  lowly  the  motives  are  that 
religion,  even  the  highest,  attributes  to  the  deity,  and  from 
what  a  hard-pressed  and  bitter  existence  they  have  been 
drawn.  To  be  given  the  best  morsel,  to  be  remembered, 
to  be  praised,  to  be  obeyed  blindly  and  punctiliously — 
these  have  been  thought  points  of  honour  with  the  gods, 
for  which  they  would  dispense  favours  and  punishments 
on  the  most  exorbitant  scale.  Nor  are  the  metaphysicians 
always  happier  in  their  theology.  They  call  God  universal 
substance  and  cause ;  but  the  primary  substance  of  things 
is  their  mere  material,  their  first  cause  is  their  lowest 
instrument.  Nothing  can  be  lower  or  more  wholly  instru 
mental  than  the  substance  and  cause  of  all  things. 

Sometimes,  indeed,  it  is  from  the  good,  from  the 
experience  of  beauty  and  happiness,  from  the  occasional 
harmony  between  our  nature  and  our  environment,  that 
we  draw  our  conception  of  the  divine  life.  Yet  even  then 
we  succumb  to  human  illusions.  We  believe  those  things 
to  be  happy,  for  instance,  which  it  makes  us  happy  to  think 
of  or  to  see  :  the  belief  in  the  felicity  of  the  supreme  being 


has  no  other  foundation.  Our  joy  in  the  thought  of  omni 
potence,  omniscience,  and  changelessness  causes  us  to  attri 
bute  a  joy  to  the  possession  of  them,  which  they  would  in 
fact,  perhaps,  be  very  far  from  involving  or  even  allowing. 

No  religion  has  ever  given  a  picture  of  deity  which  men 
could  have  imitated  without  the  grossest  immorality. 
Yet  these  shocking  representations  have  not  had  a  bad 
effect  on  believers.  The  deity  was  opposed  to  their  own 
vices  ;  those  it  might  itself  be  credited  with  offered  no 
contagious  example.  In  spite  of  the  theologians,  we  know 
by  instinct  that  in  speaking  of  the  gods  we  are  dealing  in 
myths  and  symbols.  Some  aspect  of  nature  or  some  law 
of  life,  expressed  in  an  attribute  of  deity,  is  what  we  really 
regard,  and  to  regard  such  things,  however  sinister  they 
may  be,  cannot  but  chasten  and  moralize  us.  The  personal 
character  that  such  a  function  would  involve,  if  it  were 
exercised  willingly  by  a  responsible  being,  is  something 
that  never  enters  our  thoughts.  No  such  painful  image 
comes  to  perplex  the  plain  sense  of  instinctive,  poetic 
religion.  Homer's  stories  about  the  gods  can  hardly  have 
demoralized  the  youths  who  recited  them.  To  give  moral 
importance  to  myths,  as  Plato  tended  to  do,  is  to  take 
them  far  too  seriously  and  to  belittle  what  they  stand  for. 
Left  to  themselves  they  float  in  an  ineffectual  stratum  of 
the  brain.  They  are  understood  and  grow  current  precisely 
by  not  being  pressed,  like  an  idiom  or  a  metaphor. 

The  gods  sometimes  appear,  and  when  they  do  they 
bring  us  a  foretaste  of  that  sublime  victory  of  mind  over 
matter  which  we  may  never  gain  in  experience  but  which 
may  constantly  be  gained  in  thought.  When  natural 
phenomena  are  conceived  as  the  manifestation  of  divine 
life,  human  life  itself,  by  sympathy  with  that  ideal 
projection  of  itself,  enlarges  its  customary  bounds,  until 
it  seems  capable  of  becoming  the  life  of  the  universe.  A 
god  is  a  conceived  victory  of  mind  over  nature.  A  visible 
god  is  the  consciousness  of  such  a  victory  momentarily 
attained.  The  vision  soon  vanishes,  the  sense  of  omni 
potence  is  soon  dispelled  by  recurring  conflicts  with  hostile 
forces  ;  but  the  momentary  illusion  of  that  realized  good 
has  left  us  with  the  perennial  knowledge  of  good  as  an 
ideal.  Therein  lies  the  essence  and  the  function  of  religion. 



IN  Greek  religion,  as  in  all  other  religions,  there  was  a 
background  of  vulgar  superstition.  Survivals  and  revivals 
of  totem -worship,  taboo,  magic,  ritual  barter,  and  ob 
jectified  rhetoric  are  to  be  found  in  it  to  the  very  end; 
yet  if  we  consider  in  Greek  religion  its  characteristic 
tendency,  and  what  rendered  it  distinctively  Greek,  we 
see  that  it  was  its  unprecedented  ideality,  disinterestedness, 
and  sestheticism.  The  pagan  world,  because  its  maturity 
was  simpler  than  our  crudeness,  seems  childish  to  us. 
We  do  not  find  there  our  sins  and  holiness,  our  love,  charity, 
and  honour.  To  the  Greek,  in  so  far  as  he  was  a  Greek, 
religion  was  an  aspiration  to  grow  like  the  gods  by  invok 
ing  their  companionship,  rehearsing  their  story,  feeling 
vicariously  the  glow  of  their  splendid  prerogatives,  and 
placing  them,  in  the  form  of  beautiful  and  very  human 
statues,  constantly  before  his  eyes.  This  sympathetic 
interest  in  the  immortals  took  the  place,  in  the  typical 
Greek  mind,  of  any  vivid  hope  of  human  immortality ; 
perhaps  it  made  such  a  hope  seem  superfluous  and  in 
appropriate.  Mortality  belonged  to  man,  as  immortality 
to  the  gods  ;  and  the  one  was  the  complement  of  the  other. 
Imagine  a  poet  who  to  the  freedom  and  simplicity  of  Homer 
should  have  added  the  more  reverent  idealism  of  a  later 
age  ;  and  what  an  inexhaustible  fund  of  poetry  might 
he  not  have  found  in  this  conception  of  the  immortals 
leading  a  human  life,  without  its  sordid  contrarieties  and 
limitations,  eternally  young,  and  frank,  and  different  1 


THE  pagan  poets,  when  they  devised  a  myth,  half  believed 
in  it  for  a  fact.  What  really  lent  some  truth — moral  truth 
only — to  their  imaginations  was  the  beauty  of  nature, 


the  comedy  of  life,  or  the  groans  of  mankind,  crushed 
between  the  upper  and  the  nether  millstones  ;  but  being 
scientifically  ignorant  they  allowed  their  pictorial  wisdom 
to  pass  for  a  revealed  science,  for  a  physics  of  the  unseen. 
If  even  among  the  pagans  the  poetic  expression  of  human 
experience  could  be  mistaken  in  this  way  for  knowledge  of 
occult  existences,  how  much  more  must  this  have  been 
the  case  among  a  more  ignorant  and  a  more  intense  nation 
like  the  Jews  ?  Indeed,  events  are  what  the  Jews  have 
always  remembered  and  hoped  for  ;  if  their  religion  was 
not  a  guide  to  events,  an  assured  means  towards  a  positive 
and  experimental  salvation,  it  wras  nothing.  Their  theology 
was  meagre  in  the  description  of  the  Lord's  nature,  but 
rich  in  the  description  of  his  ways.  Indeed,  their  belief 
in  the  existence  and  power  of  the  Lord,  if  we  take  it 
pragmatically  and  not  imaginatively,  was  simply  the  belief 
in  certain  moral  harmonies  in  destiny,  in  the  sufficiency 
of  conduct  of  a  certain  sort  to  secure  success  and  good 
fortune,  both  national  and  personal.  This  faith  was 
partly  an  experience  and  partly  a  demand  ;  it  turned  on 
history  and  prophecy.  History  was  interpreted  by  a 
prophetic  insight  into  the  moral  principle,  believed  to 
govern  it ;  and  prophecy  was  a  passionate  demonstration 
of  the  same  principles,  at  work  in  the  catastrophes  of  the 
day  or  of  the  morrow. 

The  after-effects  of  Hebraism,  however,  were  contrary 
to  its  foundations  ;  for  the  Jews  loved  the  world  so  much 
that  they  brought  themselves,  in  order  to  win  and  enjoy 
it,  to  an  intense  concentration  of  purpose  ;  but  this  effort 
and  discipline  not  only  failed  of  their  object,  but  grew  far 
too  absolute  and  sublime  to  think  their  object  could  ever 
have  been  earthly  ;  and  the  supernatural  machinery  which 
was  to  have  secured  prosperity,  while  that  still  enticed, 
now  had  to  furnish  some  worthier  object  for  the  passion 
it  had  artificially  fostered.  Fanaticism  consists  in  re 
doubling  your  effort  when  you  have  forgotten  your  aim. 

Christianity,  being  a  practical  and  living  faith  in  a 
possible  eventual  redemption  from  sin,  from  the  punish 
ment  for  sin,  from  the  thousand  circumstances  that  make 
the  most  brilliant  worldly  life  a  sham  and  a  failure,  essenti 
ally  involves  a  faith  in  a  supernatural  physics,  in  such  an 


economy  of  forces,  behind,  within,  and  around  the  discover 
able  forces  of  nature,  that  the  destiny  which  nature  seems 
to  prepare  for  us  may  be  reversed,  that  failures  may  be 
turned  into  successes,  ignominy  into  glory,  and  humble 
faith  into  triumphant  vision  :  and  this  not  merely  by 
a  change  in  our  point  of  view  or  estimation  of  things, 
but  by  an  actual  historical,  physical  transformation  in 
the  things  themselves.  To  believe  this  in  our  day  may 
require  courage,  even  a  certain  childish  simplicity ;  but  were 
not  courage  and  a  certain  childish  simplicity  always 
requisite  for  Christian  faith  ?  It  never  was  a  religion  for 
the  rationalist  and  the  worldling  ;  it  was  based  on  aliena 
tion  from  the  world,  from  the  intellectual  world  no  less 
than  from  the  economic  and  political.  It  flourished  in  the 
Oriental  imagination  that  is  able  to  treat  all  existence  with 
disdain  and  to  hold  it  superbly  at  arm's  length,  and  at  the 
same  time  is  subject  to  visions  and  false  memories,  is  swayed 
by  the  eloquence  of  private  passion,  and  raises  confidently 
to  heaven  the  cry  of  the  poor,  the  bereaved,  and  the 
distressed.  Its  daily  bread,  from  the  beginning,  was 
hope  for  a  miraculous  change  of  scene,  for  prison  walls 
falling  to  the  ground  about  it,  for  a  heart  inwardly  com 
forted,  and  a  shower  of  good  things  from  the  sky. 

It  is  clear  that  a  supernaturalistic  faith  of  this  sort, 
which  might  wholly  inspire  some  revolutionary  sect,  can 
never  wholly  inspire  human  society.  Whenever  a  nation 
is  converted  to  Christianity,  its  Christianity,  in  practice, 
must  be  largely  converted  into  paganism.  The  true 
Christian  is  in  all  countries  a  pilgrim  and  a  stranger  ;  not 
his  kinsmen,  but  whoever  does  the  will  of  his  Father  who 
is  in  heaven,  is  his  brother  and  sister  and  mother  and  his 
real  compatriot.  In  a  nation  that  calls  itself  Christian 
every  child  may  be  pledged,  at  baptism,  to  renounce  the 
world,  the  flesh,  and  the  devil ;  but  the  flesh  will  assert 
itself  notwithstanding,  the  devil  will  have  his  due,  and  the 
nominal  Christian,  become  a  man  of  business  and  the  head 
of  a  family,  will  form  an  integral  part  of  that  very  world 
which  he  will  pledge  his  children  to  renounce  in  turn  as  he 
holds  them  over  the  font.  The  lips,  even  the  intellect,  may 
continue  to  profess  the  Christian  ideal ;  but  public  and 
social  life  will  be  guided  by  quite  another. 


The  ages  of  faith,  the  ages  of  Christian  unity,  were  such 
only  superficially.  When  all  men  are  Christians  only  a 
small  element  can  be  Christian  in  the  average  man.  The 
thirteenth  century,  for  instance,  is  supposed  to  be  the 
golden  age  of  Catholicism  ;  but  what  seems  to  have  filled 
it,  if  we  may  judge  by  the  witness  of  Dante  ?  Little  but 
bitter  conflicts,  racial  and  religious  ;  faithless  rebellions, 
both  in  states  and  in  individuals,  against  the  Christian 
regimen :  worldliness  in  the  church,  barbarism  in  the 
people,  and  a  dawning  of  all  sorts  of  scientific  and  aesthetic 
passions,  in  themselves  quite  pagan  and  contrary  to  the 
spirit  of  the  gospel.  Christendom  at  that  time  was  by  no 
means  a  kingdom  of  God  on  earth  ;  it  was  a  conglomeration 
of  incorrigible  rascals,  intellectually  more  or  less  Christian. 
We  may  see  the  same  thing  under  different  circumstances 
in  the  Spain  of  Philip  II.  Here  was  a  government  con 
sciously  labouring,  in  the  service  of  the  church,  to  resist 
Turks,  convert  pagans,  banish  Moslems,  and  crush  Protest 
ants.  Yet  the  very  forces  engaged  in  defending  the 
church  (the  army  and  the  Inquisition)  were  alien  to  the 
Christian  life  ;  they  were  fit  embodiments  rather  of  chiv 
alry  and  greed,  or  of  policy  and  jealous  dominion.  The 
ecclesiastical  forces  also — theology,  ritual,  and  hierarchy — 
employed  in  spreading  the  gospel,  were  themselves  alien 
to  the  gospel.  An  anti-worldly  religion  finds  itself  in  fact 
in  this  dilemma  :  if  it  remains  merely  spiritual,  developing 
no  material  organs,  it  cannot  affect  the  world  ;  while  if  it 
develops  organs  with  which  to  operate  on  the  world,  these 
organs  become  a  part  of  the  world  from  which  it  is  trying 
to  wean  the  individual  spirit,  so  that  the  moment  it  is 
armed  for  conflict  such  a  religion  has  two  enemies  on  its 
hands.  It  is  stifled  by  its  necessary  armour,  and  adds 
treason  in  its  members  to  hostility  in  its  foes.  The  passions 
and  arts  it  uses  against  its  opponents  are  as  fatal  to  itself 
as  those  which  its  opponents  array  against  it. 

In  every  age  in  which  a  supernaturalistic  system  is 
preached  we  must  accordingly  expect  to  find  the  world 
standing  up  stubbornly  against  it,  essentially  unconverted 
and  hostile,  whatever  name  it  may  have  been  christened 
with  ;  and  we  may  expect  the  spirit  of  the  world  to  find 
expression,  not  only  in  overt  opposition  to  the  super- 


naturalistic  system,  but  also  in  the  surviving  or  supervening 
worldliness  of  the  faithful.  Such  an  insidious  revulsion 
of  the  natural  man  against  a  religion  he  does  not  openly 
discard  is  what,  in  modern  Christendom,  we  call  the 
Renaissance.  No  less  than  the  Revolution  (which  is  the 
later  open  rebellion  against  the  same  traditions)  the 
Renaissance  is  radically  inimical  to  Christianity.  To  say 
that  Christianity  survives,  even  if  weakened  or  disestab 
lished,  is  to  say  that  the  Renaissance  and  the  Revolution 
are  still  incomplete.  Far  from  being  past  events  they  are 
living  programmes.  The  ideal  of  the  Renaissance  is  to 
restore  pagan  standards  in  polite  learning,  in  philosophy, 
in  sentiment,  and  in  morals.  It  is  to  abandon  and  exactly 
reverse  one's  baptismal  vows.  Instead  of  forsaking  this 
wicked  world,  the  men  of  the  Renaissance  accept,  love,  and 
cultivate  the  world,  with  all  its  pomp  and  vanities  ;  they 
believe  in  the  blamelessness  of  natural  life  and  in  its 
perfectibility  ;  or  they  cling  at  least  to  a  noble  ambition 
to  perfect  it  and  a  glorious  ability  to  enjoy  it.  Instead  of 
renouncing  the  flesh,  they  feed,  refine,  and  adorn  it ;  their 
arts  glorify  its  beauty  and  its  passions.  And  far  from 
renouncing  the  devil — if  we  understand  by  the  devil  the 
proud  assertion  on  the  part  of  the  finite  of  its  autonomy : 
autonomy  of  the  intellect  in  science,  autonomy  of  the 
heart  and  will  in  morals — the  men  of  the  Renaissance  are 
possessed  by  the  devil  altogether.  They  worship  nothing 
and  acknowledge  authority  in  nothing  save  in  their  own 
spirit.  No  opposition  could  be  more  radical  and  complete 
than  that  between  the  Renaissance  and  the  anti-worldly 
religion  of  the  gospel. 


WHAT  overcame  the  world,  because  it  was  what  the 
world  desired,  was  not  a  moral  reform — for  that  was 
preached  by  every  sect ;  not  an  ascetic  regimen — for  that 
was  practised  by  heathen  gymnosophists  and  pagan 
philosophers  ;  not  brotherly  love  within  the  church — for 


the  Jews  had  and  have  that  at  least  in  equal  measure  ; 
but  what  overcame  the  world  was  what  Saint  Paul  said  he 
would  always  preach  :  Christ  and  him  crucified.  Therein 
was  a  new  poetry,  a  new  ideal,  a  new  God.  Therein  was 
the  transcript  of  the  real  experience  of  humanity,  as  men 
found  it  in  their  inmost  souls  and  as  they  were  dimly 
aware  of  it  in  universal  history.  The  moving  power  was 
a  fable — for  who  stopped  to  question  whether  its  elements 
were  historical,  if  only  its  meaning  were  profound  and  its 
inspiration  contagious  ?  This  fable  had  points  of  attach 
ment  to  real  life  in  a  visible  brotherhood  and  in  an  extant 
worship,  as  well  as  in  the  religious  past  of  a  whole  people. 
At  the  same  time  it  carried  the  imagination  into  a  new 
sphere  ;  it  sanctified  the  poverty  and  sorrow  at  which 
paganism  had  shuddered  ;  it  awakened  tenderer  emotions, 
revealed  more  humane  objects  of  adoration,  and  furnished 
subtler  instruments  of  grace.  It  was  a  whole  world  of 
poetry  descended  among  men,  like  the  angels  at  the 
Nativity,  doubling,  as  it  were,  their  habitation,  so  that 
they  might  move  through  supernatural  realms  in  the  spirit 
while  they  walked  the  earth  in  the  flesh.  The  consciousness 
of  new  loves,  new  duties,  fresh  consolations,  and  luminous, 
unutterable  hopes  accompanied  them  wherever  they  went. 
They  stopped  willingly  in  the  midst  of  their  business  for 
recollection,  like  men  in  love  ;  they  sought  to  stimulate 
their  imaginations,  to  focus,  as  it  were,  the  long  vistas  of 
an  invisible  landscape. 

A  crude  and  superficial  theology  may  confuse  God 
with  the  thunder,  the  mountains,  the  heavenly  bodies,  or 
the  whole  universe  ;  but  when  we  pass  from  these  easy 
identifications  to  a  religion  that  has  taken  root  in  the 
hearts  of  men,  we  find  its  objects  and  its  dogmas  purely 
ideal,  transparent  expressions  of  moral  experience  and 
perfect  counterparts  of  human  needs.  The  evidence  of 
history  or  of  the  senses  is  left  far  behind  and  never  thought 
of ;  the  evidence  of  the  heart,  the  value  of  the  idea,  are 
alone  regarded. 

Religion,  then,  offers  another  world,  almost  as  vast  and 
solid  as  the  real  one,  in  which  the  soul  may  develop.  In 
entering  it  we  do  not  enter  a  sphere  of  arbitrary  dreams, 
but  a  sphere  of  law  where  learning,  experience,  and  happi- 


ness  may  be  gained.  There  is  more  method,  more  reason, 
in  such  madness  than  in  the  sanity  of  most  people.  Hence 
the  believer  in  any  adequate  and  mature  religion  clings  to 
it  with  such  strange  tenacity  and  regards  it  as  his  highest 
heritage,  while  the  outsider,  whose  imagination  speaks 
another  language,  or  is  dumb  altogether,  wonders  how  so 
wild  a  fiction  can  take  root  in  a  reasonable  mind. 


THE  great  characteristic  of  Christianity,  inherited  from 
Judaism,  was  that  its  scheme  was  historical.  Not  exist 
ences  but  events  were  the  subject  of  its  primary  interest. 
It  presented  a  story,  not  a  cosmology.  It  was  an  epic 
in  which  there  was,  of  course,  superhuman  machinery 
but  of  which  the  subject  was  man,  and,  notable  circum 
stance,  the  Hero  was  a  man  as  well.  Like  Buddhism,  it 
gave  the  highest  honour  to  a  man  who  could  lead  his 
fellow-men  to  perfection.  What  had  previously  been  the 
divine  reality — the  engine  of  nature — now  became  a 
temporary  stage,  built  for  the  exigencies  of  a  human  drama. 
What  had  been  before  a  detail  of  the  edifice — the  life  of 
man — now  became  the  argument  and  purpose  of  the 
whole  creation.  Notable  transformation,  on  which  the 
philosopher  cannot  meditate  too  much. 

Was  Christianity  right  in  saying  that  the  world  was 
made  for  man  ?  Was  the  account  it  adopted  of  the 
method  and  causes  of  creation  conceivably  correct  ? 
Was  the  garden  of  Eden  a  historical  reality,  and  were  the 
Hebrew  prophecies  announcements  of  the  advent  of  Jesus 
Christ  ?  Did  the  deluge  come  because  of  man's  wickedness, 
and  will  the  last  day  coincide  with  the  dramatic  denoument 
of  church  history  ?  In  other  words,  is  the  spiritual 
experience  of  man  the  explanation  of  the  universe  ? 
Certainly  not,  if  we  are  thinking  of  a  scientific,  not  of  a 
poetical  explanation.  As  a  matter  of  fact,  man  is  a  product 
of  laws  which  must  also  destroy  him,  and  which,  as  Spinoza 
would  say,  infinitely  exceed  him  in  their  scope  and  power. 


His  welfare  is  indifferent  to  the  stars,  but  dependent  on 
them.  And  yet  that  counter-Copernican  revolution  accom 
plished  by  Christianity — a  revolution  which  Kant  should 
hardly  have  attributed  to  himself — which  put  man  in 
the  centre  of  the  universe  and  made  the  stars  circle 
about  him,  must  have  some  kind  of  justification.  And 
indeed  its  justification  (if  we  may  be  so  brief  on  so  great  a 
subject)  is  that  what  is  false  in  the  science  of  facts  may 
be  true  in  the  science  of  values.  While  the  existence  of 
things  must  be  understood  by  referring  them  to  their 
causes,  which  are  mechanical,  their  functions  can  only  be 
explained  by  what  is  interesting  in  their  results ;  in  other 
words,  by  their  relation  to  human  nature  and  to  human 

The  Christian  drama  was  a  magnificent  poetic  rendering 
of  this  side  of  the  matter,  a  side  which  Socrates  had  en 
visaged  by  his  admirable  method,  but  which  now  flooded 
the  consciousness  of  mankind  with  torrential  emotions. 
Christianity  was  born  under  an  eclipse,  when  the  light  of 
nature  was  obscured  ;  but  the  orb  that  intercepted  that 
light  was  itself  luminous,  and  shed  on  succeeding  ages  a 
moonlike  radiance,  paler  and  sadder  than  the  other,  but 
no  less  divine,  and  meriting  no  less  to  be  eternal.  Man 
now  studied  his  own  destiny,  as  he  had  before  studied  the 
sky,  and  the  woods,  and  the  sunny  depths  of  water ;  and 
as  the  earlier  study  produced  in  his  soul — anima  naturaliter 
poeta — the  images  of  Zeus,  Pan,  and  Nereus,  so  the  later 
study  produced  the  images  of  Jesus  and  of  Mary,  of  heaven 
and  hell,  of  miracles  and  sacraments.  The  observation 
was  no  less  exact,  the  translation  into  poetic  images  no  less 
wonderful  here  than  there.  To  trace  the  endless  trans 
figuration,  with  all  its  unconscious  ingenuity  and  harmony, 
might  be  the  theme  of  a  fascinating  science.  Let  not  the 
reader  fancy  that  in  Christianity  everything  was  settled 
by  records  and  traditions.  The  idea  of  Christ  himself 
had  to  be  constructed  by  the  imagination  in  response  to 
moral  demands,  tradition  giving  only  the  barest  external 
points  of  attachment.  The  facts  were  nothing  until  they 
became  symbols ;  and  nothing  could  turn  them  into 
symbols  except  an  eager  imagination  on  the  watch  for  all 
that  might  embody  its  dreams. 


The  crucifixion,  for  example,  would  remain  a  tragic 
incident  without  further  significance  if  we  regaid  it  merely 
as  a  historical  fact  ;  to  make  it  a  religious  mystery,  an 
idea  capable  of  converting  the  world,  the  moral  imagination 
must  transform  it  into  something  that  happens  for  the  sake 
of  the  soul,  so  that  each  believer  may  say  to  himself  that 
Christ  so  suffered  for  the  love  of  him.  And  such  a  thought 
is  surely  the  obj  edification  of  an  inner  impulse  ;  the  idea 
of  Christ  becomes  something  spiritual,  something  poetical. 
What  literal  meaning  could  there  be  in  saying  that  one  man 
or  one  God  died  for  the  sake  of  each  and  every  other 
individual  ?  By  what  effective  causal  principle  could 
their  salvation  be  thought  to  necessitate  his  death,  or  his 
death  to  make  possible  their  salvation  ?  By  an  vorrepov 
7rp6r€pov  natural  to  the  imagination  ;  for  in  truth  the  matter 
is  reversed.  Christ's  death  is  a  symbol  of  human  life. 
Men  could  "  believe  in  "  his  death,  because  it  was  a  figure 
and  premonition  of  the  burden  of  their  experience.  That 
is  why,  when  some  Apostle  told  them  the  story,  they  could 
say  to  him  :  "  Sir,  I  perceive  that  thou  art  a  prophet : 
thou  hast  told  me  all  things  whatsoever  I  have  felt." 
Thus  the  central  fact  of  ah1  Christ's  history,  narrated  by 
every  Evangelist,  could  still  be  nothing  but  a  painful 
incident,  as  unessential  to  the  Christian  religion  as  the  death 
of  Socrates  to  the  Socratic  philosophy,  were  it  not  trans 
formed  by  the  imagination  of  the  believer  into  the  counter 
part  of  his  own  moral  need.  Then,  by  ceasing  to  be 
viewed  merely  as  a  historical  fact,  the  death  of  Christ 
becomes  a  religious  inspiration.  The  whole  of  Christian 
doctrine  is  thus  religious  and  efficacious  only  when  it 
becomes  poetry. 

Take,  as  another  example,  the  doctrine  of  eternal 
rewards  and  punishments.  Many  perplexed  Christians 
of  our  day  try  to  reconcile  this  spirited  fable  with  their 
modern  horror  of  physical  suffering  and  their  detestation  of 
cruelty ;  and  it  must  be  admitted  that  the  image  of  men 
suffering  unending  tortures  in  retribution  for  a  few  ignorant 
and  sufficiently  wretched  sins  is,  even  as  poetry,  somewhat 
repellent.  The  idea  of  torments  and  vengeance  is  happily 
becoming  alien  to  our  society,  and  is  therefore  not  a  natural 
vehicle  for  our  religion.  Some  accordingly  reject  altogether 


the  Christian  doctrine  on  this  point,  which  is  too  strong 
for  their  nerves.  Their  objection,  of  course,  is  not  simply 
that  there  is  no  evidence  of  its  truth.  If  they  asked  for 
evidence,  would  they  believe  anything  ?  Proofs  are  the 
last  thing  looked  for  by  a  truly  religious  mind  which  feels 
the  imaginative  fitness  of  its  faith  and  knows  instinctively 
that,  in  such  a  matter,  imaginative  fitness  is  all  that  can  be 
required.  The  reason  men  reject  the  doctrine  of  eternal 
punishment  is  that  they  find  it  distasteful  or  unmeaning. 
They  show,  by  the  nature  of  their  objections,  that  they 
acknowledge  poetic  propriety  or  moral  truth  to  be  the  sole 
criterion  of  credibility  in  religion. 

But,  passing  over  the  change  of  sentiment  which  gives 
rise  to  this  change  of  doctrine,  let  us  inquire  of  what  reality 
Christian  eschatology  was  the  imaginative  rendering. 
What  was  it  in  the  actual  life  of  men  that  made  them  think 
of  themselves  as  hanging  between  eternal  bliss  and  eternal 
perdition  ?  Was  it  not  the  diversity,  the  momentousness, 
and  the  finality  of  their  experience  here  ?  No  doubt  the 
desire  to  make  the  reversal  of  the  injustices  of  this  world 
as  melodramatic  and  picturesque  as  possible  contributed 
to  the  adoption  of  this  idea ;  the  ideal  values  of  life  were 
thus  contrasted  with  its  apparent  values  in  the  most  absolute 
and  graphic  manner.  But  we  may  say  that  beneath  this 
motive,  based  on  the  exigences  of  exposition  and  edification, 
there  was  a  deeper  intuition.  There  was  the  genuine 
moralist's  sympathy  with  a  philosophic  and  logical  view  of 
immortality  rather  than  with  a  superstitious  and  senti 
mental  one.  Another  life  exists  and  is  infinitely  more 
important  than  this  life  ;  but  it  is  reached  by  the  intuition 
of  ideals,  not  by  the  multiplication  of  phenomena ;  it  is 
an  eternal  state  not  an  indefinite  succession  of  changes. 
Transitory  life  ends  for  the  Christian  when  the  balance- 
sheet  of  his  individual  merits  and  demerits  is  made  up,  and 
the  eternity  that  ensues  is  the  eternal  reality  of  those 

For  the  Oriental,  who  believed  in  transmigration,  the 
individual  dissolved  into  an  infinity  of  phases  ;  he  went  on 
actually  and  perpetually,  as  nature  does  ;  his  immortality 
was  a  long  purgatory  behind  which  a  shadowy  hell  and 
heaven  scarcely  appeared  in  the  form  of  annihilation  or 



absorption.  This  happened  because  the  oriental  mmd 
has  no  middle  ;  it  oscillates  between  extremes  and  passes 
directly  from  sense  to  mysticism,  and  back  again ;  it  lacks 
virile  understanding  and  intelligence  creative  of  form. 
But  Christianity,  following  in  this  the  Socratic  philosophy, 
rose  to  the  conception  of  eternal  essences,  forms  suspended 
above  the  flux  of  natural  things  and  expressing  the  ideal 
suggestions  and  rational  goals  of  experience.  Each  man, 
for  Christianity,  has  an  immortal  soul ;  each  life  has  the 
potentiality  of  an  eternal  meaning,  and  as  this  potentiality 
is  or  is  not  actualized,  as  this  meaning  is  or  is  not  expressed 
in  the  phenomena  of  this  life,  the  soul  is  eternally  saved  or 
lost.  As  the  tree  falleth,  so  it  lieth.  The  finality  of  this 
brief  and  personal  experiment,  the  consequent  awful 
solemnity  of  the  hour  of  death  when  all  trial  is  over  and 
when  the  eternal  sentence  is  passed,  has  always  been  duly 
felt  by  the  Christian.  The  church,  indeed,  in  answer  to 
the  demand  for  a  more  refined  and  discriminating  presenta 
tion  of  its  dogma,  introduced  the  temporary  discipline  of 
purgatory,  in  which  the  virtues  already  stamped  on  the 
soul  might  be  brought  to  greater  clearness  and  rid  of  the 
alloy  of  imperfection  ;  but  this  purification  allowed  no 
essential  development,  no  change  of  character  or  fate  ;  the 
soul  in  purgatory  was  already  saved,  already  holy. 

The  harshness  of  the  doctrine  of  eternal  judgment  is 
therefore  a  consequence  of  its  symbolic  truth.  The  church 
might  have  been  less  absolute  in  the  matter  had  she  yielded 
more,  as  she  did  in  the  doctrine  of  purgatory,  to  the  desire 
for  merely  imaginary  extensions  of  human  experience. 
But  her  better  instincts  kept  her,  after  all,  to  the  moral 
interpretation  of  reality  ;  and  the  facts  to  be  rendered  were 
uncompromising  enough.  Art  is  long,  life  brief.  To  have  / 
told  men  they  would  have  infinite  opportunities  to  reform 
and  to  advance  would  have  been  to  feed  them  on  gratuitous 
fictions  without  raising  them,  as  it  was  the  function  of 
Christianity  to  do,  to  a  consciousness  of  the  spiritual 
meaning  and  upshot  of  existence.  To  have  speculated 
about  the  infinite  extent  of  experience  and  its  endless 
transformations,  after  the  manner  of  the  barbarous  religions, 
and  never  to  have  conceived  its  moral  essence,  would  have 
been  to  encourage  a  dream  which  may  by  chance  be 


prophetic,  but  which  is  as  devoid  of  ideal  meaning  as  of 
empirical  probability.  Christian  fictions  were  at  least 
significant ;  they  beguiled  the  intellect,  no  doubt,  and 
were  mistaken  for  accounts  of  external  fact ;  but  they 
enlightened  the  imagination  ;  they  made  man  understand, 
as  never  before  or  since,  the  pathos  and  nobility  of  his  life, 
the  necessity  of  discipline,  the  possibility  of  sanctity. 
The  divine  was  reached  by  the  idealization  of  the  human. 
The  supernatural  was  an  allegory  of  the  natural,  and 
rendered  the  values  of  transitory  things  under  the  image  of 
eternal  existences. 


WHEN  the  Jewish  notion  of  creation  and  divine  government 
of  the  world  presented  itself  to  the  Greeks,  they  hastened 
to  assimilate  it  to  their  familiar  notions  of  imitation,  ex 
pression,  finality,  and  significance.  And  when  the  Chris 
tians  spoke  of  Christ  as  the  Son  of  God,  who  now  sat  at 
his  right  hand  in  the  heavens,  their  Platonic  disciples 
immediately  thought  of  the  Nous  or  Logos,  the  divine 
Intelligence,  incarnate  as  they  had  always  believed  in  the 
whole  world,  and  yet  truly  the  substance  and  essence  of 
divinity.  To  say  that  this  incarnation  had  taken  place 
pre-eminently,  or  even  exclusively,  in  Christ  was  not  an 
impossible  concession  to  make  to  pious  enthusiasm,  at 
least  if  the  philosophy  involved  in  the  old  conception  could 
be  retained  and  embodied  in  the  new  orthodoxy.  Sacred 
history  could  thus  be  interpreted  as  a  temporal  execution 
of  eternal  decrees,  and  the  plan  of  salvation  as  an  ideal 
necessity.  Cosmic  scope  and  metaphysical  meaning  were 
given  to  Hebrew  tenets,  so  unspeculative  in  their  original 
intention,  and  it  became  possible  even  for  a  Platonic 
philosopher  to  declare  himself  a  Christian. 

The  eclectic  Christian  philosophy  thus  engendered 
constitutes  one  of  the  most  complete,  elaborate,  and 
impressive  products  of  the  human  mind.  The  ruins  of 
more  than  one  civilization  and  of  more  than  one  philosophy 
were  ransacked  to  furnish  materials  for  this  heavenly 


Byzantium.  It  was  a  myth  circumstantial  and  sober 
enough  in  tone  to  pass  for  an  account  of  facts,  and  yet 
loaded  with  enough  miracle,  poetry,  and  submerged 
wisdom  to  take  the  place  of  a  moral  philosophy  and  present 
what  seemed  at  the  time  an  adequate  ideal  to  the  heart. 
Many  a  mortal,  in  all  subsequent  ages,  perplexed  and 
abandoned  in  this  ungovernable  world,  has  set  sail  resolutely 
for  that  enchanted  island  and  found  there  a  semblance  of 
happiness,  its  narrow  limits  give  so  much  room  for  the 
soul  and  its  penitential  soil  breeds  so  many  consolations. 
True,  the  brief  time  and  narrow  argument  into  which 
Christian  imagination  squeezes  the  world  must  seem  to  a 
speculative  pantheist  childish  and  poor,  involving,  as  it 
does,  a  fatuous  perversion  of  nature  and  history  and  a 
ridiculous  emphasis  laid  on  local  events  and  partial  interests. 
Yet  just  this  violent  reduction  of  things  to  a  human  stature, 
this  half-innocent,  half-arrogant  assumption  that  what  is 
important  for  a  man  must  control  the  whole  universe,  is 
what  made  Christian  philosophy  originally  appealing  and 
what  still  arouses,  in  certain  quarters,  enthusiastic  belief 
in  its  beneficence  and  finality. 

Nor  should  we  wonder  at  this  enduring  illusion.  Man 
is  still  in  his  childhood  ;  for  he  cannot  respect  an  ideal 
which  is  not  imposed  on  him  against  his  will,  nor  can  he 
find  satisfaction  in  a  good  created  by  his  own  action.  He 
is  afraid  of  a  universe  that  leaves  him  alone.  Freedom 
appals  him  ;  he  can  apprehend  in  it  nothing  but  tedium 
and  desolation,  so  immature  is  he  and  so  barren  does  he 
think  himself  to  be.  He  has  to  imagine  what  the  angels 
would  say,  so  that  his  own  good  impulses  (which  create 
those  angels)  may  gain  in  authority,  and  none  of  the  dangers 
that  surround  his  poor  life  make  the  least  impression  upon 
him  until  he  hears  that  there  are  hobgoblins  hiding  in  the 
wood.  His  moral  life,  to  take  shape  at  all,  must  appear 
to  him  in  fantastic  symbols.  The  history  of  these  symbols 
is  therefore  the  history  of  his  soul. 

There  was  in  the  beginning,  so  runs  the  Christian  story 
a  great  celestial  King,  wise  and  good,  surrounded  by  a  court 
of  winged  musicians  and  messengers.  He  had  existed 
from  all  eternity,  but  had  always  intended,  when  the  right 
moment  should  come,  to  create  temporal  beings,  imperfect 


copies  of  himself  in  various  degrees.  These,  of  which  man 
was  the  chief,  began  their  career  in  the  year  4004  B.C.,  and 
they  would  live  on  an  indefinite  time,  possibly,  that 
chronological  symmetry  might  not  be  violated,  until 
A.D.  4004.  The  opening  and  close  of  this  drama  were 
marked  by  two  magnificent  tableaux.  In  the  first,  in 
obedience  to  the  word  of  God,  sun,  moon,  and  stars,  and 
earth  with  all  her  plants  and  animals,  assumed  their 
appropriate  places,  and  nature  sprang  into  being  with  all 
her  laws.  The  first  man  was  made  out  of  clay,  by  a  special 
act  of  God,  and  the  first  woman  was  fashioned  from  one 
of  his  ribs,  extracted  while  he  lay  in  a  deep  sleep.  They 
were  placed  in  an  orchard  where  they  often  could  see  God, 
its  owner,  walking  in  the  cool  of  the  evening.  He  suffered 
them  to  range  at  will  and  eat  of  all  the  fruits  he  had  planted 
save  that  of  one  tree  only.  But  they,  incited  by  a  devil, 
transgressed  this  single  prohibition,  and  were  banished 
from  that  paradise  with  a  curse  upon  their  head,  the  man 
to  live  by  the  sweat  of  his  brow  and  the  woman  to  bear 
children  in  labour.  These  children  possessed  from  the 
moment  of  conception  the  inordinate  natures  which  their 
parents  had  acquired.  They  were  born  to  sin  and  to  find 
disorder  and  death  everywhere  within  and  without  them. 

At  the  same  time  God,  lest  the  work  of  his  hands  should 
wholly  perish,  promised  to  redeem  in  his  good  season  some 
of  Adam's  children  and  restore  them  to  a  natural  life. 
This  redemption  was  to  come  ultimately  through  a  de 
scendant  of  Eve,  whose  foot  should  bruise  the  head  of  the 
serpent.  But  it  was  to  be  prefigured  by  many  partial 
and  special  redemptions.  Thus,  Noah  was  to  be  saved 
from  the  deluge,  Lot  from  Sodom,  Isaac  from  the  sacrifice, 
Moses  from  Egypt,  the  captive  Jews  from  Babylon,  and 
all  faithful  souls  from  heathen  forgetfulness  and  idolatry. 
For  a  certain  tribe  had  been  set  apart  from  the  begin 
ning  to  keep  alive  the  memory  of  God's  judgments  and 
promises,  while  the  rest  of  mankind,  abandoned  to  its 
natural  depravity,  sank  deeper  and  deeper  into  crimes 
and  vanities.  The  deluge  that  came  to  punish  these  evils 
did  not  avail  to  cure  them.  "  The  world  was  renewed  1 
and  the  earth  rose  again  above  the  bosom  of  the  waters, 

1  Bossuet,  Discours  sur  I'histoire  universelle,  Part.  II.  chap.  i. 


but  in  this  renovation  there  remained  eternally  some  trace 
of  divine  vengeance.  Until  the  deluge  all  nature  had 
been  exceedingly  hardy  and  vigorous,  but  by  that  vast 
flood  of  water  which  God  had  spread  out  over  the  earth, 
and  by  its  long  abiding  there,  all  saps  were  diluted ;  the 
air,  charged  with  too  dense  and  heavy  a  moisture,  bred 
ranker  principles  of  corruption.  The  early  constitution 
of  the  universe  was  weakened,  and  human  life,  from 
stretching  as  it  had  formerly  done  to  near  a  thousand  years, 
grew  gradually  briefer.  Herbs  and  roots  lost  their  primitive 
potency  and  stronger  food  had  to  be  furnished  to  man  by 
the  flesh  of  other  animals.  .  .  .  Death  gained  upon  life 
and  men  felt  themselves  overtaken  by  a  speedier  chastise 
ment.  As  day  by  day  they  sank  deeper  in  their  wickedness, 
it  was  but  right  they  should  daily,  as  it  were,  stick  faster 
in  their  woe.  The  very  change  in  nourishment  made 
manifest  their  decline  and  degradation,  since  as  they 
became  feebler  they  became  also  more  voracious  and  blood 

Henceforth  there  were  two  spirits,  two  parties,  or,  as 
Saint  Augustine  called  them,  two  cities  in  the  world. 
The  City  of  Satan,  whatever  its  artifices  in  art,  war,  or 
philosophy,  was  essentially  corrupt  and  impious.  Its 
joy  was  but  a  comic  mask  and  its  beauty  the  whitening  of 
a  sepulchre.  It  stood  condemned  before  God  and  before 
man's  better  conscience  by  its  vanity,  cruelty,  and  secret 
misery,  by  its  ignorance  of  all  that  it  truly  behoved  a  man 
to  know  who  was  destined  to  immortality.  Lost,  as  it 
seemed,  within  this  Babylon,  or  visible  only  in  its  obscure 
and  forgotten  purlieus,  lived  on  at  the  same  time  the  City 
of  God,  the  society  of  all  the  souls  God  predestined  to 
salvation  ;  a  city  which,  however  humble  and  inconspicuous 
it  might  seem  on  earth,  counted  its  myriad  transfigured 
citizens  in  heaven,  and  had  its  destinies,  like  its  foundations, 
in  eternity.  To  this  City  of  God  belonged,  in  the  first 
place,  the  patriarchs  and  the  prophets  who,  throughout 
their  plaintive  and  ardent  lives,  were  faithful  to  what 
echoes  still  remained  of  a  primeval  revelation,  and  waited 
patiently  for  the  greater  revelation  to  come.  To  the  same 
city  belonged  the  magi  who  followed  a  star  till  it  halted 
over  the  stable  in  Bethlehem  ;  Simeon,  who  divined  the 


present  salvation  of  Israel ;  John  the  Baptist,  who  bore 
witness  to  the  same  and  made  straight  its  path  ;  and 
Peter,  to  whom  not  flesh  and  blood,  but  the  spirit  of  the 
Father  in  heaven,  revealed  the  Lord's  divinity.  For 
salvation  had  indeed  come  with  the  fulness  of  time,  not, 
as  the  carnal  Jews  had  imagined  it,  in  the  form  of  an  earthly 
restoration,  but  through  the  incarnation  of  the  Son  of  God 
in  the  Virgin  Mary,  his  death  upon  a  cross,  his  descent  into 
hell,  and  his  resurrection  at  the  third  day  according  to  the 
Scriptures.  To  the  same  city  belonged  finally  all  those 
who,  believing  in  the  reality  and  efficacy  of  Christ's  mission, 
relied  on  his  merits  and  followed  his  commandment  of 
unearthly  love. 

All  history  was  henceforth  essentially  nothing  but  the 
conflict  between  these  two  cities ;  two  moralities,  one 
natural,  the  other  supernatural ;  two  philosophies,  one 
rational,  the  other  revealed ;  two  beauties,  one  corporeal, 
the  other  spiritual ;  two  glories,  one  temporal,  the  other 
eternal ;  two  institutions,  one  the  world,  the  other  the 
church.  These,  whatever  their  momentary  alliances  or 
compromises,  were  radically  opposed  and  fundamentally 
alien  to  one  another.  Their  conflict  was  to  fill  the  ages 
until,  when  wheat  and  tares  had  long  flourished  together 
and  exhausted  between  them  the  earth  for  whose  substance 
they  struggled,  the  harvest  should  come  ;  the  terrible  day 
of  reckoning  when  those  who  had  believed  the  things  of 
religion  to  be  imaginary  would  behold  with  dismay  the 
Lord  visibly  coming  down  through  the  clouds  of  heaven, 
the  angels  blowing  their  alarming  trumpets,  all  generations 
of  the  dead  rising  from  their  graves,  and  judgment  without 
appeal  passed  on  every  man,  to  the  edification  of  the 
universal  company  and  his  own  unspeakable  joy  or  con 
fusion.  Whereupon  the  blessed  would  enter  eternal  bliss 
with  God  their  master  and  the  wicked  everlasting  torments 
with  the  devil  whom  they  served. 

The  drama  of  history  was  thus  to  close  upon  a  second 
tableau  :  long-robed  and  beatified  cohorts  passing  above, 
amid  various  psalmodies,  into  an  infinite  luminous  space, 
while  below  the  damned,  howling,  writhing,  and  half 
transformed  into  loathsome  beasts,  should  be  engulfed  in 
a  fiery  furnace.  The  two  cities,  always  opposite  in  essence, 


should  thus  be  finally  divided  in  existence,  each  bearing 
its  natural  fruits  and  manifesting  its  true  nature. 

Let  the  reader  fill  out  this  outline  for  himself  with  its 
thousand  details  ;  let  him  remember  the  endless  mysteries, 
arguments,  martyrdoms,  consecrations  that  carried  out 
the  sense  and  made  vital  the  beauty  of  the  whole.  Let 
him  pause  before  the  phenomenon ;  he  can  ill  afford, 
if  he  wishes  to  understand  history  or  the  human  mind, 
to  let  the  apparition  float  by  unchallenged  without  deliver 
ing  up  its  secret.  What  shall  we  say  of  this  Christian 
dream  ? 

Those  who  are  still  troubled  by  the  fact  that  this  dream 
is  by  many  taken  for  a  reality,  and  who  are  consequently 
obliged  to  defend  themselves  against  it,  as  against  some 
dangerous  error  in  science  or  in  philosophy,  may  be  allowed 
to  marshal  arguments  in  its  disproof.  Such,  however,  is 
not  my  intention.  Do  we  marshal  arguments  against  the 
miraculous  birth  of  Buddha,  or  the  story  of  Cronos  devour 
ing  his  children  ?  We  seek  rather  to  honour  the  piety  and 
to  understand  the  poetry  embodied  in  those  fables.  If  it 
be  said  that  those  fables  are  believed  by  no  one,  I  reply 
that  those  fables  are  or  have  been  believed  just  as  un 
hesitatingly  as  the  Christian  theology,  and  by  men  no  less 
reasonable  or  learned  than  the  unhappy  apologists  of  our 
own  ancestral  creeds.  Matters  of  religion  should  never 
be  matters  of  controversy.  We  neither  argue  with  a 
lover  about  his  taste,  nor  condemn  him,  if  we  are  just, 
for  knowing  so  human  a  passion.  That  he  harbours  it  is  no 
indication  of  a  want  of  sanity  on  his  part  in  other  matters. 
But  while  we  acquiesce  in  his  experience,  and  are  glad  he 
has  it,  we  need  no  arguments  to  dissuade  us  from  sharing 
it.  Each  man  may  have  his  own  loves,  but  the  object 
in  each  case  is  different.  And  so  it  is,  or  should  be,  in 
religion.  Before  the  rise  of  those  strange  and  fraudulent 
Hebraic  pretensions  there  was  no  question  among  men 
about  the  national,  personal,  and  poetic  character  of 
religious  allegiance.  It  could  never  have  been  a  duty  to 
adopt  a  religion  not  one's  own  any  more  than  a  language, 
a  coinage,  or  a  costume  not  current  in  one's  own  country. 
The  idea  that  religion  contains  a  literal,  not  a  symbolic, 
representation  of  truth  and  life  is  simply  an  impossible  idea. 


Whoever  entertains  it  has  not  come  within  the  region  of 
profitable  philosophizing  on  that  subject.  His  science  is  not 
wide  enough  to  cover  all  existence.  He  has  not  discovered 
that  there  can  be  no  moral  allegiance  except  to  the  ideal. 
His  certitude  and  his  arguments  are  no  more  pertinent  to 
the  religious  question  than  would  be  the  insults,  blows, 
and  murders  to  which,  if  he  could,  he  would  appeal  in  the 
next  instance.  Philosophy  may  describe  unreason,  as  it 
may  describe  force  ;  it  cannot  hope  to  refute  them. 


THE  western  intellect,  in  order  to  accept  the  gospel,  had 
to  sublimate  it  into  a  neo-Platonic  system  of  metaphysics. 
In  like  manner  the  western  heart  had  to  render  Christianity 
congenial  and  adequate  by  a  rich  infusion  of  pagan  custom 
and  sentiment.  This  adaptation  was  more  gentle  and 
facile  than  might  be  supposed.  We  are  too  much  inclined 
to  impute  an  abstract  and  ideal  Christianity  to  the  polyglot 
souls  of  early  Christians,  and  to  ignore  that  mysterious 
and  miraculous  side  of  later  paganism  from  which  Christian 
cultus  and  ritual  are  chiefly  derived.  In  the  third  century 
Christianity  and  devout  paganism  were,  in  a  religious  sense, 
closely  akin  ;  each  differed  much  less  from  the  other  than 
from  that  religion  which  at  other  epochs  had  borne  or 
should  bear  its  own  name.  Had  Julian  the  Apostate 
succeeded  in  his  enterprise  he  would  not  have  rescued 
anything  which  the  admirers  of  classic  paganism  could  at 
all  rejoice  in  ;  a  disciple  of  lamblichus  could  not  but  plunge 
headlong  into  the  same  sea  of  superstition  and  dialectic 
which  had  submerged  Christianity.  Reason  had  suffered 
a  general  eclipse,  but  civilization,  although  decayed,  still 
subsisted,  and  a  certain  scholastic  discipline,  a  certain 
speculative  habit,  and  many  an  ancient  religious  usage 
remained  in  the  world.  The  people  could  change  their 
gods,  but  not  the  spirit  in  which  they  worshipped  them. 
Christianity  had  insinuated  itself  almost  unobserved  into 
a  society  full  of  rooted  traditions.  The  first  disciples  had 


been  disinherited  Jews,  with  religious  habits  which  men 
of  other  races  and  interests  could  never  have  adopted 
intelligently;  the  church  was  accordingly  wise  enough  to 
perpetuate  in  its  practice  at  least  an  indispensable  minimum 
of  popular  paganism. 

Any  one  who  enters  a  Catholic  church  with  an  intelligent 
interpreter  will  at  once  perceive  the  immense  distance 
which  separates  the  official  and  impersonal  ritual  sung 
behind  the  altar  rails  from  the  daily  prayers  and  practices 
of  Catholic  people.  The  latter  refer  to  the  real  exigences 
of  daily  life  and  serve  to  express  or  reorganize  personal 
passions.  While  mass  is  being  celebrated  the  old  woman 
will  tell  her  beads,  lost  in  a  vague  rumination  over  her  own 
troubles  ;  while  the  priests  chant  something  unintelligible 
about  Abraham  or  Nebuchadnezzar,  the  housewife  will 
light  her  wax  candles,  duly  blessed  for  the  occasion, 
before  Saint  Barbara,  to  be  protected  thereby  from  the 
lightning  ;  and  while  the  preacher  is  repeating,  by  rote, 
dialectical  subtleties  about  the  union  of  the  two  natures 
in  Christ's  person,  a  listener's  fancy  may  float  sadly  over 
the  mystery  of  love  and  of  life,  and  (being  himself  without 
resources  in  the  premises)  he  may  order  a  mass  to  be  said 
for  the  repose  of  some  departed  soul. 

In  a  Catholic  country  every  spot  and  every  man  has 
a  particular  patron.  These  patrons  are  sometimes  local 
worthies,  canonized  by  tradition  or  by  the  Roman  see,  but 
no  less  often  they  are  simply  local  appellations  of  Christ 
or  the  Virgin,  appellations  which  are  known  theoretically 
to  refer  all  to  the  same  numen,  but  which  practically  possess 
diverse  religious  values  ;  for  the  miracles  and  intercessions 
attributed  to  the  Virgin  under  one  title  are  far  from  being 
miracles  and  intercessions  attributable  to  her  under 
another.  He  who  has  been  all  his  life  devout  to  Loreto 
will  not  place  any  special  reliance  on  the  Pillar  at  Saragossa. 
A  bereaved  mother  will  not  fly  to  the  Immaculate  Con 
ception  for  comfort,  but  of  course  to  Our  Lady  of  the 
Seven  Sorrows.  Each  religious  order  and  all  the  laity 
more  or  less  affiliated  to  it  will  cultivate  special  saints  and 
special  mysteries.  There  are  also  particular  places  and 
days  on  which  graces  are  granted,  as  not  on  others,  and 
the  quantity  of  such  graces  is  measurable  by  canonic 


standards.  So  many  days  of  remitted  penance  correspond 
to  a  work  of  a  certain  merit,  for  there  is  a  celestial  currency 
in  which  mulcts  and  remissions  may  be  accurately  summed 
and  subtracted  by  angelic  recorders.  One  man's  spiritual 
earnings  may  by  gift  be  attributed  and  imputed  to  another, 
a  belief  which  may  seem  arbitrary  and  superstitious  but 
which  is  really  a  natural  corollary  to  fundamental  doctrines 
like  the  atonement,  the  communion  of  saints,  and  inter 
cession  for  the  dead  and  living. 

Another  phase  of  the  same  natural  religion  is  seen  in 
frequent  festivals,  in  the  consecration  of  buildings,  ships, 
fields,  labours,  and  seasons  ;  in  intercessions  by  the  greater 
dead  for  the  living  and  by  the  living  for  the  lesser  dead — 
a  perfect  survival  of  heroes  and  penates  on  the  one  hand  and 
of  pagan  funeral  rites  and  commemorations  on  the  other. 
Add  Lent  with  its  carnival,  ember-days,  all  saints'  and  all 
souls',  Christmas  with  its  magi  or  its  Saint  Nicholas,  Saint 
Agnes's  and  Saint  Valentine's  days  with  their  profane 
associations,  a  saint  for  finding  lost  objects  and  another 
for  prospering  amourettes,  since  all  great  and  tragic  loves 
have  their  inevitable  patrons  in  Christ  and  the  Virgin, 
in  Mary  Magdalene,  and  in  the  mystics  innumerable. 
This,  with  what  more  could  easily  be  rehearsed,  makes  a 
complete  paganism  within  Christian  tradition,  a  paganism 
for  which  little  basis  can  be  found  in  the  gospel,  the  mass, 
the  breviary,  or  the  theologians. 

Yet  these  accretions  were  as  well  authenticated  as  the 
substructure,  for  they  rested  on  human  nature.  To  feel, 
for  instance,  the  special  efficacy  of  your  village  Virgin  or 
of  the  miraculous  Christ  whose  hermitage  is  perched  on 
the  overhanging  hill,  is  a  genuine  experience.  The  principle 
of  it  is  clear  and  simple.  Those  shrines,  those  images,  the 
festivals  associated  with  them,  have  entered  your  mind 
together  with  your  earliest  feelings.  Your  first  glimpses  of 
mortal  vicissitudes  have  coincided  with  the  awe  and  glitter 
of  sacramental  moments  in  which  those  numina  were 
invoked  ;  and  on  that  deeper  level  of  experience,  in  those 
lower  reaches  of  irrationalism  in  which  such  impressions 
lie,  they  constitute  a  mystic  resource  subsisting  beneath 
all  conventions  and  overt  knowledge.  When  the  doctors 
blunder — as  they  commonly  do — the  saints  may  find  a 


cure  ;  after  all,  the  saints'  success  in  medicine  seems  to  a 
crude  empiricism  almost  as  probable  as  the  physicians'. 
Special  and  local  patrons  are  the  original  gods,  and  whatever 
religious  value  speculative  and  cosmic  deities  retain  they 
retain  surreptitiously,  by  virtue  of  those  very  bonds  with 
human  interests  and  passionate  desires  which  ancestral 
demons  once  borrowed  from  the  hearth  they  guarded,  the 
mountain  they  haunted,  or  the  sacrifice  they  inhaled 
with  pleasure,  until  their  hearts  softened  toward  their 


As  the  God  of  religion  differs  from  that  of  metaphysics,  so 
does  the  Christ  of  tradition  differ  from  that  of  our  critical 
historians.  Even  if  we  took  the  literal  narrative  of  the 
Gospels  and  accepted  it  as  all  we  could  know  of  Christ, 
without  allowing  ourselves  any  imaginative  interpretation 
of  the  central  figure,  we  should  get  an  ideal  of  him,  I  will 
not  say  very  different  from  that  familiar  to  St.  Francis 
or  St.  Theresa,  but  even  from  that  in  the  English  prayer- 
book.  The  Christ  men  have  loved  and  adored  is  an  ideal 
of  their  own  hearts,  the  construction  of  an  ever-present 
personality,  living  and  intimately  understood,  out  of  the 
fragments  of  story  and  doctrine  connected  with  a  name. 
This  subjective  image  has  inspired  all  the  prayers,  all  the 
conversions,  all  the  penances,  charities,  and  sacrifices,  as 
well  as  half  the  art  of  the  Christian  world. 

The  Virgin  Mary,  whose  legend  is  so  meagre,  but  whose 
power  over  the  Catholic  imagination  is  so  great,  is  an 
even  clearer  illustration  of  this  inward  building  up  of  an 
ideal  form.  Everything  is  here  spontaneous  sympathetic 
expansion  of  two  given  events  :  the  incarnation  and  the 
crucifixion.  The  figure  of  the  Virgin,  found  in  these 
mighty  scenes,  is  gradually  clarified  and  developed,  until 
we  come  to  the  thought  on  the  one  hand  of  her  freedom 
from  original  sin,  and  on  the  other  to  that  of  her  universal 
maternity.  We  thus  attain  the  conception  of  one  of  the 
noblest  of  conceivable  roles  and  of  one  of  the  most  beautiful 


of  characters.  It  is  a  pity  that  a  foolish  iconoclasm  should 
so  long  have  deprived  the  Protestant  mind  of  the  con 
templation  of  this  ideal. 

Perhaps  it  is  a  sign  of  the  average  imaginative  dulness 
or  fatigue  of  certain  races  and  epochs  that  they  so  readily 
abandon  these  supreme  creations.  For,  if  we  are  hopeful, 
why  should  we  not  believe  that  the  best  we  can  fancy  is  also 
the  truest ;  and  if  we  are  distrustful  in  general  of  our 
prophetic  gifts,  why  should  we  cling  only  to  the  most  mean 
and  formless  of  our  illusions  ?  From  the  beginning  to  the 
end  of  our  perceptive  and  imaginative  activity,  we  are 
synthesizing  the  material  of  experience  into  unities  the 
independent  reality  of  which  is  beyond  proof,  nay,  beyond 
the  possibility  of  a  shadow  of  evidence.  And  yet  the  life 
of  intelligence,  like  the  joy  of  contemplation,  lies  entirely 
in  the  formation  and  inter-relation  of  these  unities.  This 
activity  yields  us  all  the  images  which  we  can  compose, 
and  endows  them  with  the  finer  and  more  intimate  part  of 
their  beauty.  The  most  perfect  of  these  forms,  judged  by 
its  affinity  to  our  powers  and  its  stability  in  the  presence  of 
our  experience,  is  the  one  with  which  we  should  be  content ; 
no  other  kind  of  veracity  could  add  to  its  value. 

The  greatest  feats  of  synthesis  which  the  human  mind 
has  yet  accomplished  will,  indeed,  be  probably  surpassed 
and  all  ideals  yet  formed  be  superseded,  because  they  were 
not  based  upon  enough  experience,  or  did  not  fit  that 
experience  with  adequate  precision.  It  is  also  possible 
that  changes  in  the  character  of  the  facts,  or  in  the  powers 
of  intelligence,  should  necessitate  a  continual  reconstruc 
tion  of  our  world.  But  unless  human  nature  suffers  an  in 
conceivable  change,  the  chief  intellectual  and  aesthetic  value 
of  our  ideas  will  always  come  from  the  creative  action  of  the 


To  a  person  sufficiently  removed  by  time  or  by  philosophy 
from  the  controversies  of  sects,  orthodoxy  must  always 
appear  right  and  heresy  wrong ;  for  he  sees  in  orthodoxy 


the  product  of  the  creative  mind,  of  faith  and  constructive 
logic,  but  in  heresy  only  the  rebellion  of  some  partial 
interest  or  partial  insight  against  the  corollaries  of  a 
formative  principle  imperfectly  grasped  and  obeyed  with 
hesitation.  At  a  distance,  the  criticism  that  disintegrates 
any  great  product  of  art  or  mind  must  always  appear 
short-sighted  and  unamiable.  Socrates,  invoking  the  local 
deities  of  brooks  and  meadows,  or  paying  the  debt  of  a 
cock  to  Asclepius  (in  thanksgiving,  it  is  said,  for  a  happy 
death),  is  more  reasonable  and  noble  to  our  mind  than 
are  the  hard  denials  of  Xenophanes  or  Theodorus.  Nor 
were  the  heretics  of  a  later  age  less  unintelligent.  The 
principle  by  which  the  Christian  system  had  developed, 
although  reapplied  by  the  Protestants  to  their  own  inner 
life,  was  not  understood  by  them  in  its  historical  applica 
tions.  They  had  little  sympathy  with  the  spiritual  needs 
and  habits  of  that  pagan  society  in  which  Christianity  had 
grown  up.  That  society  had  found  in  Christianity  a  sort 
of  last  love,  a  rejuvenating  supersensible  hope,  and  had 
bequeathed  to  the  gospel  of  redemption,  for  its  better 
embodiment  and  ornament,  all  its  own  wealth  of  art, 
philosophy,  and  devotion.  This  embodiment  of  Christianity 
represented  a  civilization  through  which  the  Teutonic 
races  had  not  passed  and  which  they  never  could  have 
produced  ;  it  appealed  to  a  kind  of  imagination  and  senti 
ment  which  was  foreign  to  them.  This  embodiment, 
accordingly,  was  the  object  of  their  first  and  fiercest  attack, 
really  because  it  was  unsympathetic  to  their  own  tempera 
ment  but  ostensibly  because  they  could  not  find  its  basis 
in  those  Hebraic  elements  of  Christianity  which  make  up 
the  greater  bulk  of  the  Bible.  They  did  not  value  the 
sublime  aspiration  of  Christianity  to  be  not  something 
Hebraic  or  Teutonic  but  something  catholic  and  human  ; 
and  they  blamed  everything  which  went  beyond  the 
accidental  limits  of  their  own  sympathies  and  the  narrow 
scope  of  their  own  experience. 

Yet  it  was  only  by  virtue  of  this  complement  inherited 
from  paganism,  or  at  least  supplied  by  the  instincts  and 
traditions  on  which  paganism  had  reposed,  that  Christianity 
could  claim  to  approach  a  humane  universality  or  to  achieve 
an  imaginative  adequacy. 


Nor  was  it  right  or  fitting  to  make  a  merely  theoretical 
or  ethical  synthesis.  Doctrine  must  find  its  sensible  echo 
in  worship,  in  art,  in  the  feasts  and  fasts  of  the  year. 
Only  when  thus  permeating  life  and  expressing  itself  to 
every  sense  and  faculty  can  a  religion  be  said  to  have 
reached  completion ;  only  then  has  the  imagination 
exhausted  its  means  of  utterance. 

The  great  success  which  Christianity  achieved  in  this 
immense  undertaking  makes  it,  after  classic  antiquity, 
the  most  important  phase  in  the  history  of  mankind.  It 
is  clear,  however,  that  this  success  was  not  complete. 
That  fallacy  from  which  the  pagan  religion  alone  has  been 
free,  that  TT/JWTOI/  \pevSos  of  all  fanaticism,  the  natural 
but  hopeless  misunderstanding  of  imagining  that  poetry 
in  order  to  be  religion,  in  order  to  be  the  inspiration  of  life, 
must  first  deny  that  it  is  poetry  and  deceive  us  about  the 
facts  with  which  we  have  to  deal — this  misunderstanding 
has  marred  the  work  of  the  Christian  imagination  and 
condemned  it,  if  we  may  trust  appearances,  to  be  transitory. 
For  by  this  misunderstanding  Christian  doctrine  was  brought 
into  conflict  with  reality,  of  which  it  pretends  to  prejudge 
the  character,  and  also  into  conflict  with  what  might  have 
been  its  own  elements,  with  all  excluded  religious  instincts 
and  imaginative  ideals.  Human  life  is  always  essentially 
the  same,  and  therefore  a  religion  which,  like  Christianity, 
seizes  the  essence  of  that  life,  ought  to  be  an  eternal  religion. 
But  it  may  forfeit  that  privilege  by  entangling  itself  with 
a  particular  account  of  matters  of  fact,  matters  irrelevant 
to  its  ideal  significance,  and  further  by  intrenching  itself, 
by  virtue  of  that  entanglement,  in  an  inadequate  regimen 
or  a  too  narrow  imaginative  development,  thus  putting  its 
ideal  authority  in  jeopardy  by  opposing  it  to  other  in 
tuitions  and  practices  no  less  religious  than  its  own. 

Can  Christianity  escape  these  perils  ?  Can  it  reform  its 
claims,  or  can  it  overwhelm  all  opposition  and  take  the 
human  heart  once  more  by  storm  ?  The  future  alone  can 
decide.  The  greatest  calamity,  however,  would  be  that 
which  seems,  alas  !  not  unlikely  to  befall  our  immediate 
posterity,  namely,  that  while  Christianity  should  be 
discredited,  no  other  religion,  more  disillusioned  and  not 
less  inspired,  should  come  to  take  its  place.  Until  the 


imagination  should  have  time  to  recover  and  to  reassert  its 
legitimate  and  kindly  power,  the  European  races  would 
then  be  reduced  to  confessing  that  while  they  had  mastered 
the  mechanical  forces  of  nature,  both  by  science  and  by 
the  arts,  they  had  become  incapable  of  mastering  or  under 
standing  themselves,  and  that,  bewildered  like  the  beasts 
by  the  revolutions  of  the  heavens  and  by  their  own  irrational 
passions,  they  could  find  no  way  of  uttering  the  ideal  mean 
ing  of  their  life. 


TAKEN  externally,  Protestantism  is,  of  course,  a  form  of 
Christianity  ;  it  retains  the  Bible  and  a  more  or  less  copious 
selection  of  patristic  doctrines.  But  in  its  spirit  and 
inward  inspiration  it  is  something  quite  as  independent 
of  Judea  as  of  Rome.  Its  character  may  be  indicated  by 
saying  that  it  builds  religion  on  conscience,  on  an  emotional 
freedom  deeply  respecting  itself  but  scarcely  deciphering 
its  purposes.  It  is  the  self-consciousness  of  a  spirit  in 
process  of  incubation,  jealous  of  its  potentialities,  averse 
to  definitions  and  externalities  of  any  kind  because  it  can 
itself  discern  nothing  fixed  or  final.  It  is  adventurous  and 
puzzled  by  the  world,  full  of  rudimentary  virtues  and 
clear  fire,  energetic,  faithful,  rebellious  to  cynical  sugges 
tions,  inexpert  in  matters  of  art  and  mind.  It  boasts,  not 
without  cause,  of  its  depth  and  purity  ;  but  this  depth  and 
purity  are  those  of  any  formless  and  primordial  substance. 
It  keeps  unsullied  that  antecedent  integrity  which  is  at 
the  bottom  of  every  living  thing  and  at  its  core  ;  it  is  not 
acquainted  with  that  ulterior  integrity,  that  sanctity, 
which  might  be  attained  at  the  summit  of  experience 
through  renunciation  and  speculative  dominion.  It  accord 
ingly  mistakes  vitality,  both  in  itself  and  in  the  universe, 
for  spiritual  life. 

This  underlying  Teutonic  mood,  which  we  must  call 
Protestantism  for  lack  of  a  better  name,  is  anterior  to 
Christianity  and  can  survive  it.  To  identify  it  with  the 
gospel  may  have  seemed  possible  so  long  as,  in  opposition 


to  pagan  Christianity,  the  Teutonic  spirit  could  appeal  to 
the  gospel  for  support.  The  gospel  has  indeed  nothing 
pagan  about  it,  but  it  has  also  nothing  Teutonic  ;  and  the 
momentary  alliance  of  two  such  disparate  forces  must 
naturally  cease  with  the  removal  of  the  common  enemy 
which  alone  united  them.  The  gospel  is  unworldly,  dis 
enchanted,  ascetic  ;  it  treats  ecclesiastical  establishments 
with  tolerant  contempt,  conforming  to  them  with  in 
difference  ;  it  regards  prosperity  as  a  danger,  earthly 
ties  as  a  burden,  Sabbaths  as  a  superstition ;  it  revels 
in  miracles  ;  it  is  democratic  and  antinomian  ;  it  loves 
contemplation,  poverty,  and  solitude  ;  it  meets  sinners 
with  sympathy  and  heartfelt  forgiveness,  but  Pharisees 
and  Puritans  with  biting  scorn.  In  a  word,  it  is  a  product 
of  the  East,  where  all  things  are  old  and  equal  and  a 
profound  indifference  to  the  business  of  earth  breeds  a 
silent  dignity  and  high  sadness  in  the  spirit.  Protestantism 
is  the  exact  opposite  of  all  this.  It  is  convinced  of  the 
importance  of  success  and  prosperity ;  it  abominates 
what  is  disreputable ;  contemplation  seems  to  it  idleness, 
solitude  selfishness,  and  poverty  a  sort  of  dishonour 
able  punishment.  It  is  constrained  and  punctilious  in 
righteousness ;  it  regards  a  married  and  industrious  life 
as  typically  godly,  and  there  is  a  sacredness  to  it,  as  of  a 
vacant  Sabbath,  in  the  unoccupied  higher  spaces  which 
such  an  existence  leaves  for  the  soul.  It  is  sentimental, 
its  ritual  is  meagre  and  unctuous,  it  expects  no  miracles, 
it  thinks  optimism  akin  to  piety,  and  regards  profit 
able  enterprise  and  practical  ambition  as  a  sort  of  moral 
vocation.  Its  Evangelicalism  lacks  the  notes,  so  prominent 
in  the  gospel,  of  disillusion,  humility,  and  speculative 
detachment.  Its  benevolence  is  optimistic  and  aims  at 
raising  men  to  a  conventional  well-being ;  it  thus  misses 
the  inner  appeal  of  Christian  charity  which,  being  merely 
remedial  in  physical  matters,  begins  by  renunciation  and 
looks  to  spiritual  freedom  and  peace. 

Protestantism  was  therefore  attached  from  the  first  to 
the  Old  Testament,  in  which  Hebrew  fervour  appears  in 
its  worldly  and  pre-rational  form.  It  is  not  democratic 
in  the  same  sense  as  post-rational  religions,  which  see  in 
the  soul  an  exile  from  some  other  sphere  wearing  for  the 



moment,  perhaps,  a  beggar's  disguise  :  it  is  democratic 
only  in  the  sense  of  having  a  popular  origin  and  bending 
easily  to  popular  forces.  Swayed  as  it  is  by  public  opinion, 
it  is  necessarily  conventional  in  its  conception  of  duty  and 
earnestly  materialistic  ;  for  the  meaning  of  the  word  vanity 
never  crosses  the  vulgar  heart.  In  fine,  it  is  the  religion 
of  a  race  young,  wistful,  and  adventurous,  feeling  its 
latent  potentialities,  vaguely  assured  of  an  earthly  vocation, 
and  possessing,  like  the  barbarian  and  the  healthy  child, 
pure  but  unchastened  energies. 

Protestantism  in  its  vital  elements  was  thus  a  perfectly 
new,  a  perfectly  spontaneous  religion.  The  illusion  that 
it  was  a  return  to  primitive  Christianity  was  useful  for 
controversial  purposes  and  helped  to  justify  the  iconoclastic 
passions  of  the  time ;  but  this  illusion  did  not  touch  the 
true  essence  of  Protestantism,  nor  the  secret  of  its  legitimacy 
and  power  as  a  religion.  Indeed  we  may  say  that  the 
typical  Protestant  was  himself  his  own  church  and  made 
the  selection  and  interpretation  of  tradition  according  to 
the  demands  of  his  personal  spirit. 

Protestantism  has  the  unmistakable  character  of  a 
genuine  religion,  a  character  which  tradition  passively 
accepted  and  dogma  regarded  as  so  much  external  truth 
may  easily  forfeit.  It  is  in  correspondence  with  the 
actual  ideals  and  instincts  of  the  believer ;  it  is  the  self- 
assertion  of  a  living  soul.  Its  meagreness  and  eccentricity 
are  simply  evidences  of  its  personal  basis.  It  is  in  full 
harmony  with  the  practical  impulses  it  comes  to  sanction, 
and  accordingly  it  gains  in  efficiency  all  that  it  loses  in 
dignity  or  truth. 

It  was  this  youthful  religion — profound,  barbaric, 
poetical — that  the  Teutonic  races  insinuated  into  Chris 
tianity  and  substituted  for  that  last  sigh  of  two  expir 
ing  worlds.  In  the  end,  with  the  complete  crumbling 
away  of  Christian  dogma  and  tradition,  Absolute  Egotism 
appeared  openly  on  the  surface  in  the  shape  of  German 
philosophy.  This  form,  which  Protestantism  assumed  at 
a  moment  of  high  tension  and  reckless  self-sufficiency,  it 
will  doubtless  shed  in  turn  and  take  on  new  expressions ; 
but  that  declaration  of  independence  on  the  part  of  the 
Teutonic  spirit  marks  emphatically  its  exit  from  Christianity 


and  the  end  of  that  series  of  transformations  in  which 
it  took  the  Bible  and  patristic  dogma  for  its  materials. 
It  now  bids  fair  to  apply  itself  instead  to  social  life  and 
natural  science  and  to  attempt  to  feed  its  Protean  hunger 
directly  from  these  more  homely  sources. 

The  patristic  systems,  though  weak  in  their  foundations, 
were  extraordinarily  wise  and  comprehensive  in  their 
working  out ;  and  while  they  inverted  life  they  preserved 
it.  Dogma  added  to  the  universe  fabulous  perspectives ;  it 
interpolated  also  innumerable  incidents  and  powers  which 
gave  a  new  dimension  to  experience.  Yet  the  old  world 
remained  standing  in  its  strange  setting,  like  the  Pantheon 
in  modern  Rome  ;  and,  what  is  more  important,  the 
natural  springs  of  human  action  were  still  acknowledged, 
and  if  a  supernatural  discipline  was  imposed,  and  the 
pursuit  of  earthly  happiness  seemed  hopeless,  nature  was 
not  destroyed  by  its  novel  expression,  nor  did  reason  die 
in  the  cloister  :  it  hibernated  there,  and  could  come  back 
to  its  own  in  due  season,  only  a  little  dazed  and  weakened 
by  its  long  confinement.  Such,  at  least,  is  the  situation  in 
Catholic  regions,  where  the  patristic  philosophy  has  not 
appreciably  varied.  Among  Protestants  Christian  dogma 
has  taken  a  new  and  ambiguous  direction,  which  has  at 
once  minimized  its  disturbing  effect  in  practice  and  isolated 
its  primary  illusion.  The  symptoms  have  been  cured  and 
the  disease  driven  in. 


PIETY,  in  its  nobler  and  Roman  sense,  may  be  said  to  mean 
man's  reverent  attachment  to  the  sources  of  his  being  and 
the  steadying  of  his  life  by  that  attachment.  A  soul  is 
but  the  last  bubble  of  a  long  fermentation  in  the  world. 
If  we  wish  to  live  associated  with  permanent  racial  interests 
we  must  plant  ourselves  on  a  broad  historic  and  human 
foundation,  we  must  absorb  and  interpret  the  past  which 
has  made  us,  so  that  we  may  hand  down  its  heritage 
reinforced,  if  possible,  and  in  no  way  undermined  or 
denaturalized.  This  consciousness  that  the  human  spirit 


is  derived  and  responsible,  that  all  its  functions  are  heritages 
and  trusts,  involves  a  sentiment  of  gratitude  and  duty 
which  we  may  call  piety. 

Piety  esteems  things  apart  from  their  intrinsic  worth, 
on  account  of  their  relation  to  the  agent's  person  and 
fortune.  Yet  such  esteem  is  perfectly  rational,  partiality 
in  man's  affections  and  allegiance  being  justified  by  the 
partial  nature  and  local  status  of  his  life.  Piety  is  the 
spirit's  acknowledgment  of  its  incarnation.  This  physical 
bond  should  not,  indeed,  disturb  the  intellect  in  its  proper 
function  or  warp  its  judgments  ;  you  should  not,  under 
guise  of  tenderness,  become  foolish  and  attribute  to  your 
father  or  child  greater  stature  or  cleverness  or  goodness 
than  he  actually  possesses.  To  do  so  is  a  natural  foible 
but  no  part  of  piety  or  true  loyalty.  It  is  one  thing  to 
lack  a  heart  and  another  to  possess  eyes  and  a  just  imagina 
tion.  Indeed,  piety  is  never  so  beautiful  and  touching, 
never  so  thoroughly  humane  and  invincible,  as  when  it  is 
joined  to  an  impartial  intellect,  conscious  of  the  relativity 
involved  in  existence  and  able  to  elude,  through  imaginative 
sympathy,  the  limits  set  to  personal  life  by  circumstance 
and  private  duty.  As  a  man  dies  nobly  when,  awaiting 
his  own  extinction,  he  is  interested  to  the  last  in  what 
will  continue  to  be  the  interests  and  joys  of  others,  so  he 
is  most  profoundly  pious  who  loves  unreservedly  a  country, 
friends,  and  associations  which  he  knows  very  well  to  be 
not  the  most  beautiful  on  earth,  and  who,  being  wholly 
content  in  his  personal  capacity  with  his  natural  conditions, 
does  not  need  to  begrudge  other  things  whatever  speculative 
admiration  they  may  truly  deserve.  The  ideal  in  this 
polyglot  world,  where  reason  can  receive  only  local  and 
temporal  expression,  is  to  understand  all  languages  and 
to  speak  but  one,  so  as  to  unite,  in  a  manly  fashion,  compre 
hension  with  propriety. 

Mankind  at  large  is,  to  some  minds,  an  object  of  piety. 
But  this  religion  of  humanity  is  rather  a  desideratum  than 
a  fact.  Piety  towards  mankind  must  be  three-fourths  pity. 
There  are  indeed  specific  human  virtues,  but  they  are 
those  necessary  to  existence,  like  patience  and  courage. 
Supported  on  these  indispensable  habits,  mankind  always 
carries  an  indefinite  load  of  misery  and  vice.  Life  spreads 

PIETY  85 

rankly  in  every  wrong  and  impracticable  direction  as  well 
as  in  profitable  paths,  and  the  slow  and  groping  struggle 
with  its  own  ignorance,  inertia,  and  folly,  leaves  it  covered 
in  every  age  of  history  with  filth  and  blood.  It  would  hardly 
be  possible  to  exaggerate  man's  wretchedness  if  it  were  not 
so  easy  to  overestimate  his  sensibility.  There  is  a  fond 
of  unhappiness  in  every  bosom,  but  the  depths  are  seldom 
probed ;  and  there  is  no  doubt  that  sometimes  frivolity 
and  sometimes  sturdy  habit  helps  to  keep  attention  on 
the  surface  and  to  cover  up  the  inner  void. 

To  worship  mankind  as  it  is  would  be  to  deprive  it  of 
what  alone  makes  it  akin  to  the  divine — its  aspiration. 
For  this  human  dust  li ves ;  this  misery  and  crime  are 
dark  in  contrast  to  an  imagined  excellence ;  they  are 
lighted  up  by  a  prospect  of  good.  Man  is  not  adorable, 
but  he  adores,  and  the  object  of  his  adoration  may  be 
discovered  within  him  and  elicited  from  his  own  soul. 
In  this  sense  the  religion  of  humanity  is  the  only  religion, 
all  others  being  sparks  and  abstracts  of  the  same.  The 
indwelling  ideal  lends  all  the  gods  their  divinity.  No 
power,  either  physical  or  psychical,  has  the  least  moral 
prerogative  nor  any  just  place  in  religion  at  all  unless  it 
supports  and  advances  the  ideal  native  to  the  worshipper's 
soul.  Without  moral  society  between  the  votary  and  his 
god  religion  is  pure  idolatry  ;  and  even  idolatry  would  be 
impossible  but  for  the  suspicion  that  somehow  the  brute 
force  exorcized  in  prayer  might  help  or  mar  some  human 

There  is  a  philosophic  piety  which  has  the  universe  for 
its  object.  This  feeling,  common  to  ancient  and  modern 
Stoics,  has  an  obvious  justification  in  man's  dependence 
upon  the  natural  world  and  in  its  service  to  many  sides  of 
the  mind.  Such  justification  of  cosmic  piety  is  rather 
obscured  than  supported  by  the  euphemisms  and  ambi 
guities  in  which  these  philosophers  usually  indulge  in  their 
attempt  to  preserve  the  customary  religious  unction.  For 
the  more  they  personify  the  universe  and  give  it  the  name 
of  God  the  more  they  turn  it  into  a  devil.  The  universe, 
so  far  as  we  can  observe  it,  is  a  wonderful  and  immense 
engine  ;  its  extent,  its  order,  its  beauty,  its  cruelty,  make 
it  alike  impressive.  If  we  dramatize  its  life  and  conceive 


its  spirit,  we  are  filled  with  wonder,  terror,  and  amusement, 
so  magnificent  is  that  spirit,  so  prolific,  inexorable,  gram 
matical,  and  dull.  Like  all  animals  and  plants,  the 
cosmos  has  its  own  way  of  doing  things,  not  wholly  rational 
nor  ideally  best,  but  patient,  fatal,  and  fruitful.  Great 
is  this  organism  of  mud  and  fire,  terrible  this  vast,  painful, 
glorious  experiment.  Why  should  we  not  look  on  the 
universe  with  piety  ?  Is  it  not  our  substance  ?  Are  we 
made  of  other  clay  ?  All  our  possibilities  lie  from  eternity 
hidden  in  its  bosom.  It  is  the  dispenser  of  all  our  joys. 
We  may  address  it  without  superstitious  terrors  ;  it  is  not 
wicked.  It  follows  its  own  habits  abstractedly  ;  it  can  be 
trusted  to  be  true  to  its  word.  Society  is  not  impossible 
between  it  and  us,  and  since  it  is  the  source  of  all  our 
energies,  the  home  of  all  our  happiness,  shall  we  not  cling 
to  it  and  praise  it,  seeing  that  it  vegetates  so  grandly  and 
so  sadly,  and  that  it  is  not  for  us  to  blame  it  for  what, 
doubtless,  it  never  knew  that  it  did  ?  Where  there  is  such 
infinite  and  laborious  potency  there  is  room  for  every  hope. 
If  we  should  abstain  from  judging  a  father's  errors  or  a 
mother's  foibles,  why  should  we  pronounce  sentence  on 
the  ignorant  crimes  of  the  universe,  which  have  passed 
into  our  own  blood  ?  The  universe  is  the  true  Adam, 
the  creation  the  true  fall ;  and  as  we  have  never  blamed 
our  mythical  first  parent  very  much,  in  spite  of  the  dis 
proportionate  consequences  of  his  sin,  because  we  felt  that 
he  was  but  human  and  that  we,  in  his  place,  might  have 
sinned  too,  so  we  may  easily  forgive  our  real  ancestor, 
whose  connatural  sin  we  are  from  moment  to  moment 
committing,  since  it  is  only  the  necessary  rashness  of 
venturing  to  be  without  fore-knowing  the  price  or  the  fruits 
of  existence. 


IN  honouring  the  sources  of  life,  piety  is  retrospective.  It 
collects,  as  it  were,  food  for  morality,  and  fortifies  it 
with  natural  and  historic  nutriment.  But  a  digestive 
and  formative  principle  must  exist  to  assimilate  this 


nutriment ;  a  direction  and  an  ideal  have  to  be  imposed 
on  these  gathered  forces.  So  that  religion  has  a  second 
and  a  higher  side,  which  looks  to  the  end  toward  which 
we  move,  as  piety  looks  to  the  conditions  of  progress 
and  to  the  sources  from  which  we  draw  our  energies. 
This  aspiring  side  of  religion  may  be  called  spirituality. 
Spirituality  is  nobler  than  piety,  because  what  would 
fulfil  our  being  and  make  it  worth  having  is  what  alone 
lends  value  to  that  being's  source.  Nothing  spiritual  is 
instrumental.  Spirit  is  the  music  and  fruition  of  all 
things.  The  gift  of  existence  would  be  worthless  unless 
existence  was  good  and  supported  at  least  a  possible 
happiness.  A  man  is  spiritual  when  he  lives  in  the  presence 
of  the  ideal,  and  whether  he  eat  or  drink  does  so  for  the 
sake  of  a  true  and  ultimate  good.  He  is  spiritual  when 
he  envisages  his  goal  so  frankly  that  his  whole  material 
life  becomes  a  transparent  and  transitive  vehicle,  an  instru 
ment  which  scarcely  arrests  attention  but  allows  the  spirit 
to  use  it  economically  and  with  perfect  detachment  and 

There  is  no  need  that  this  ideal  should  be  pompously 
or  mystically  described.  A  simple  life  is  its  own  reward, 
and  continually  realizes  its  function.  Though  a  spiritual 
man  may  perfectly  well  go  through  intricate  processes  of 
thought  and  attend  to  very  complex  affairs,  his  single  eye, 
fixed  on  a  rational  purpose,  will  simplify  morally  the  natural 
chaos  it  looks  upon  and  will  remain  free.  This  spiritual 
mastery  is,  of  course,  no  slashing  and  forced  synthesis  of 
things  into  a  system  of  philosophy  which,  even  if  it  were 
thinkable,  would  leave  the  conceived  logical  machine 
without  ideality  and  without  responsiveness  to  actual 
interests  ;  it  is  rather  an  inward  aim  and  fixit}'  in  affection 
that  knows  what  to  take  and  what  to  leave  in  a  world  over 
which  it  diffuses  something  of  its  own  peace.  It  threads 
its  way  through  the  landscape  with  so  little  temptation 
to  distraction  that  it  can  salute  every  irrelevant  thing,  as 
Saint  Francis  did  the  sun  and  moon,  with  courtesy  and  a 
certain  affectionate  detachment. 

Spirituality  likes  to  say,  Behold  the  lilies  of  the  field ! 
For  its  secret  has  the  same  simplicity  as  their  vegetative 
art ;  only  spirituality  has  succeeded  in  adding  consciousness 


without  confusing  instinct.  This  success,  unfortunately 
so  rare  in  man's  life  as  to  seem  paradoxical,  is  its  whole 
achievement.  Spirituality  ought  to  have  been  a  matter 
of  course,  since  conscious  existence  has  inherent  value  and 
there  is  no  intrinsic  ground  why  it  should  smother  that 
value  in  alien  ambitions  and  servitudes.  But  spirituality, 
though  so  natural  and  obvious  a  thing,  is  subject,  like  the 
lilies'  beauty,  to  corruption.  I  know  not  what  army  of 
microbes  evidently  invaded  from  the  beginning  the  soul's 
basis  and  devoured  its  tissues,  so  that  sophistication  and 
bad  dreams  entirely  obscured  her  limpidity. 


IT  is  in  the  very  essence  of  prayer  to  regard  a  denial  as 
possible.  There  would  be  no  sense  in  denning  and  begging 
for  the  better  thing  if  that  better  thing  had  at  any  rate 
to  be.  The  possibility  of  defeat  is  one  of  the  circumstances 
with  which  meditation  must  square  our  hopes  ;  seeing 
that  our  prayer  may  not  be  granted,  what  in  that  case 
should  we  pray  for  next  ?  Now  the  order  of  nature  is  in 
many  respects  well  known,  and  it  is  clear  that  all  realizable 
wishes  must  not  transgress  certain  bounds.  The  practical 
ideal,  that  which  under  the  circumstances  it  is  best  to  aim 
at  and  pray  for,  will  not  rebel  against  destiny.  Conformity 
is  an  element  in  all  religion  and  submission  in  all  prayer  ; 
not  because  what  must  be  is  best,  but  because  the  best  that 
may  be  pursued  rationally  lies  within  the  possible,  and 
can  be  hatched  only  in  the  general  womb  of  being.  The 
prayer,  "  Thy  will  be  done,"  if  it  is  to  remain  a  prayer, 
must  not  be  degraded  from  its  original  meaning,  which 
was  that  an  unfulfilled  ideal  should  be  fulfilled ;  it 
expressed  aspiration  after  the  best,  not  willingness  to  be 
satisfied  with  anything.  Yet  the  inevitable  must  be 
accepted,  and  it  is  easier  to  change  the  human  will  than 
the  laws  of  nature.  To  wean  the  mind  from  extravagant 
desires  and  teach  it  to  find  excellence  in  what  life  affords, 
when  life  is  made  as  worthy  as  possible,  is  a  part  of  wisdom 


and  religion.  Prayer,  by  confronting  the  ideal  with 
experience  and  fate,  tends  to  render  that  ideal  humble, 
practical,  and  efficacious. 

A  sense  for  human  limitations,  however,  has  its  foil  in 
the  notion  of  deity,  which  is  nothing  but  the  ideal  of  man 
freed  from  those  limitations  which  a  humble  and  wise  man 
accepts  for  himself,  but  which  a  spiritual  man  never  ceases 
to  feel  as  limitations.  Man,  for  instance,  is  mortal,  and 
his  whole  animal  and  social  economy  is  built  on  that  fact, 
GO  that  his  practical  ideal  must  start  on  that  basis,  and 
make  the  best  of  it ;  but  immortality  is  essentially  better, 
and  the  eternal  is  in  many  ways  constantly  present  to  a 
noble  mind  ;  the  gods  therefore  are  immortal,  and  to  speak 
their  language  in  prayer  is  to  learn  to  see  all  things,  as 
they  do  and  as  reason  must,  under  the  form  of  eternity. 
The  gods  are  furthermore  no  respecters  of  persons  ;  they 
are  just,  for  it  is  man's  ideal  to  be  so.  Prayer,  since  it 
addresses  deity,  will  in  the  end  blush  to  be  selfish  and 
partial  ;  the  majesty  of  the  divine  mind  envisaged  and 
consulted  will  tend  to  pass  into  the  human  mind. 

This  use  of  prayer  has  not  been  conspicuous  in  Christian 
times,  because,  instead  of  assimilating  the  temporal  to  the 
eternal,  men  have  assimilated  the  eternal  to  the  temporal, 
being  perturbed  fanatics  in  religion  rather  than  poets  and 
idealists.  Pagan  devotion,  on  the  other  hand,  was  full  of 
this  calmer  spirit.  The  gods,  being  frankly  natural,  could 
be  truly  ideal ;  I  mean,  they  could  express  what  some 
actual  creature  genuinely  aspired  to  become.  They 
embodied  what  was  fairest  in  human  life  and  loved  men 
who  resembled  them,  so  that  it  was  delightful  and  ennobling 
to  see  their  images  everywhere,  and  to  keep  their  names 
and  story  perpetually  in  mind.  They  did  not  by  their 
influence  alienate  man  from  his  appropriate  happiness, 
but  they  perfected  it  by  their  presence.  Peopling  all 
places,  changing  their  forms  as  all  living  things  must 
according  to  place  and  circumstance,  they  showed  how  all 
kinds  of  being,  if  perfect  in  their  kind,  might  be  perfectly 
good.  They  asked  for  a  reverence  consistent  with  reason, 
and  exercised  prerogatives  that  left  man  free.  Their 
worship  was  a  perpetual  lesson  in  humanity,  moderation, 
and  beauty.  Something  pre-rational  and  monstrous  often 


peeped  out  behind  their  serenity,  as  it  does  beneath  the 
human  soul,  and  there  was  certainly  no  lack  of  wildness 
and  mystic  horror  in  their  apparitions.  The  ideal  must 
needs  betray  those  elemental  forces  on  which,  after  all, 
it  rests ;  but  reason  exists  to  exorcize  their  madness  and 
win  them  over  to  a  steady  expression  of  themselves  and 
of  the  good. 

Prayer,  in  fine,  though  it  accomplishes  nothing  material, 
constitutes  something  spiritual.  It  will  not  bring  rain, 
but  until  rain  comes  it  may  cultivate  hope  and  resigna 
tion  and  may  prepare  the  heart  for  any  issue,  opening 
up  a  vista  in  which  human  prosperity  will  appear  in  its 
conditioned  existence  and  conditional  value.  A  candle 
wasting  itself  before  an  image  will  prevent  no  misfortune, 
but  it  may  bear  witness  to  some  silent  hope  or  relieve 
some  sorrow  by  expressing  it ;  it  may  soften  a  little  the 
bitter  sense  of  impotence  which  would  consume  a  mind 
aware  of  physical  dependence  but  not  of  spiritual  dominion. 
Worship,  supplication,  reliance  on  the  gods,  express  both 
these  things  in  an  appropriate  parable.  Physical  impotence 
is  expressed  by  man's  appeal  for  help  ;  moral  dominion 
by  belief  in  God's  omnipotence.  This  belief  may  after 
wards  seem  to  be  contraolicted  by  events.  It  would  be  so 
in  truth  if  God's  omnipotence  stood  for  a  material  magical 
control  of  events  by  the  values  they  were  to  generate. 
But  the  believer  knows  in  his  heart,  in  spite  of  the  confused 
explanations  he  may  give  of  his  feelings,  that  a  material 
efficacy  is  not  the  test  of  his  faith.  His  faith  will  survive 
any  outward  disappointment.  In  fact,  it  will  grow  by 
that  discipline  and  not  become  truly  religious  until  it 
ceases  to  be  a  foolish  expectation  of  improbable  things  and 
rises  on  stepping-stones  of  its  material  disappointments 
into  a  spiritual  peace.  What  would  sacrifice  be  but  a  risky 
investment  if  it  did  not  redeem  us  from  the  love  of  those 
things  which  it  asks  us  to  surrender  ?  What  would  be  the 
miserable  fruit  of  an  appeal  to  God  which,  after  bringing 
us  face  to  face  with  him,  left  us  still  immersed  in  what 
we  could  have  enjoyed  without  him  ?  The  real  use  and 
excuse  for  magic  is  this,  that  by  enticing  us,  in  the  service 
of  natural  lusts,  into  a  region  above  natural  instrumental 
ities,  it  accustoms  us  to  that  rarer  atmosphere,  so  that  we 


may  learn  to  breathe  it  for  its  own  sake.  By  the  time  we 
discover  the  mechanical  futility  of  religion  we  may  have- 
begun  to  blush  at  the  thought  of  using  religion  mechanic 
ally  ;  for  what  should  be  the  end  of  life  if  friendship  with 
the  gods  is  a  means  only  ?  When  thaumaturgy  is  dis 
credited,  the  childish  desire  to  work  miracles  may  itself 
have  passed  away.  Before  we  weary  of  the  attempt 
to  hide  and  piece  out  our  mortality,  our  concomitant 
immortality  may  have  dawned  upon  us.  While  we  are 
waiting  for  the  command  to  take  up  our  bed  and  walk 
we  may  hear  a  voice  saying  :  Thy  sins  are  forgiven  thee. 


DYING  is  something  ghastly,  as  being  born  is  something 
ridiculous  ;  and,  even  if  no  pain  were  involved  in  quitting 
or  entering  this  world,  we  might  still  say  what  Dante's 
Francesca  says  of  it  :  //  modo  ancor  m'  offende, — "  I 
shudder  at  the  way  of  it."  If  the  fear  of  death  were 
merely  the  fear  of  dying,  it  would  be  better  dealt  with  by 
medicine  than  by  argument.  There  is,  or  there  might  be, 
an  art  of  dying  well,  of  dying  painlessly,  willingly,  and  in 
season, — as  in  those  noble  partings  which  Attic  gravestones 
depict, — especially  if  we  were  allowed  to  choose  our  own 

But  the  radical  fear  of  death,  I  venture  to  think,  is 
something  quite  different.  It  is  the  love  of  life.  This 
love  is  not  something  rational,  or  founded  on  experience 
of  life.  It  is  something  antecedent  and  spontaneous. 
It  teaches  every  animal  to  seek  its  food  and  its  mate,  and 
to  protect  its  offspring ;  as  also  to  resist  or  fly  from  all 
injury  to  the  body,  and  most  of  all  from  threatened  death. 
It  is  the  original  impulse  by  which  good  is  discriminated 
from  evil,  and  hope  from  fear. 

Nothing  could  be  more  futile,  therefore,  than  to  marshal 
arguments  against  that  fear  of  death  which  is  merely 
another  name  for  the  energy  of  life,  or  the  tendency  to 
self-preservation.  W7hat  is  most  dreaded  is  not  the  agony 


of  dying,  nor  yet  the  strange  impossibility  that  when  we 
do  not  exist  we  should  suffer  for  not  existing.  What  is 
dreaded  is  the  defeat  of  a  present  will  directed  upon  life 
and  its  various  undertakings.  Such  a  present  will  cannot 
be  argued  away,  but  it  may  be  weakened  by  contradictions 
arising  within  it,  by  the  irony  of  experience,  or  by  ascetic 
discipline.  To  introduce  ascetic  discipline,  to  bring  out 
the  irony  of  experience,  to  expose  the  self-contradictions 
of  the  will,  would  be  the  true  means  of  mitigating  the  love 
of  life ;  and  if  the  love  of  life  were  extinguished,  the  fear 
of  death,  like  smoke  rising  from  that  fire,  would  have 
vanished  also. 

The  force,  for  instance,  of  the  great  passage  against  the 
fear  of  death,  at  the  end  of  the  third  book  of  Lucretius, 
comes  chiefly  from  the  picture  it  draws  of  the  madness  of 
life.  His  philosophy  deprecates  covetousness,  ambition, 
love,  and  religion  ;  it  takes  a  long  step  towards  the  surrender 
of  life,  by  surrendering  all  in  life  that  is  ardent,  on  the 
ground  that  it  is  painful  in  the  end  and  ignominious. 
To  escape  from  it  all  is  a  great  deliverance.  And  since 
genius  must  be  ardent  about  something,  Lucretius  pours 
out  his  enthusiasm  on  Epicurus,  who  brought  this  deliver 
ance  and  was  the  saviour  of  mankind.  Yet  this  was  only 
a  beginning  of  salvation,  and  the  same  principles  carried 
further  would  have  delivered  us  from  the  Epicurean  life 
and  what  it  retained  that  was  Greek  and  naturalistic  : 
science,  friendship,  and  the  healthy  pleasures  of  the  body. 
Had  it  renounced  these  things  also,  Epicureanism  would 
have  become  altogether  ascetic,  a  thorough  system  of 
mortification,  or  the  pursuit  of  death.  To  those  who 
sincerely  pursue  death,  death  is  no  evil,  but  the  highest 
good.  No  need  in  that  case  of  elaborate  arguments  to 
prove  that  death  should  not  be  feared,  because  it  is  nothing  ; 
for  in  spite  of  being  nothing — or  rather  because  it  is  nothing 
— death  can  be  loved  by  a  fatigued  and  disillusioned  spirit, 
just  as  in  spite  of  being  nothing — or  rather  because  it  is 
nothing — it  must  be  hated  and  feared  by  every  vigorous 



AMONG  the  blind,  the  retina  having  lost  its  function,  the 
rest  of  the  skin  is  said  to  recover  its  primordial  sensitiveness 
to  distance  and  light,  so  that  the  sightless  have  a  clearer 
premonition  of  objects  about  them  than  seeing  people 
could  have  in  the  dark.  So  when  reason  and  the  ordinary 
processes  of  sense  are  in  abeyance  a  certain  universal 
sensibility  seems  to  return  to  the  soul ;  influences  at  other 
times  not  appreciable  make  then  a  sensible  impression, 
and  automatic  reactions  may  be  run  through  in  response 
to  a  stimulus  normally  quite  insufficient.  Now  the  com 
plexity  of  nature  is  prodigious  ;  everything  that  happens 
leaves,  like  buried  cities,  almost  indelible  traces  which  an 
eye,  by  chance  attentive  and  duly  prepared,  can  manage 
to  read,  recovering  for  a  moment  the  image  of  an  extinct 
life.  Symbols,  illegible  to  reason,  can  thus  sometimes  read 
themselves  out  in  trance  and  madness.  Faint  vestiges 
may  be  found  in  matter  of  forms  which  it  once  wore,  or 
which,  like  a  perfume,  impregnated  and  got  lodgment 
within  it.  Slight  echoes  may  suddenly  reconstitute  them 
selves  in  the  mind's  silence  ;  and  a  half-stunned  conscious 
ness  may  catch  brief  glimpses  of  long-lost  and  irrelevant 
things.  Real  ghosts  are  such  reverberations  of  the  past, 
exceeding  ordinary  imagination  and  discernment  both  in 
vividness  and  in  fidelity ;  they  may  not  be  explicable 
without  appealing  to  material  influences  subtler  than  those 
ordinarily  recognized,  as  they  are  obviously  not  discoverable 
without  some  derangement  and  hypertrophy  of  the  senses. 
That  such  subtler  influences  should  exist  is  entirely 
consonant  with  reason  and  experience  ;  but  only  a  hanker 
ing  tenderness  for  superstition,  a  failure  to  appreciate 
the  function  both  of  religion  and  of  science,  can  lead  to 
reverence  for  such  oracular  gibberish  as  these  influences 
provoke.  The  world  is  weary  of  experimenting  with  magic. 
In  utter  seriousness  and  with  immense  solemnity  whole 
races  have  given  themselves  up  to  exploiting  these  shabby 
mysteries ;  and  while  a  new  survey  of  the  facts,  in  the 


light  of  natural  science  and  psychology,  is  certainly  not 
superfluous,  it  can  be  expected  to  lead  to  nothing  but  a 
more  detailed  and  conscientious  description  of  natural 
processes.  The  thought  of  employing  such  investigations 
to  save  at  the  last  moment  religious  doctrines  founded 
on  moral  ideas  is  a  pathetic  blunder  ;  the  obscene  super 
natural  has  nothing  to  do  with  rational  religion.  If  it 
were  discovered  that  wretched  echoes  of  a  past  life  could  be 
actually  heard  by  putting  one's  ear  long  enough  to  a  tomb, 
and  if  (per  impossibile)  those  echoes  could  be  legitimately 
attributed  to  another  mind,  and  to  the  very  mind,  indeed, 
whose  former  body  was  interred  there,  a  melancholy 
chapter  would  indeed  be  added  to  man's  earthly  fortunes, 
since  it  would  appear  that  even  after  death  he  retained, 
under  certain  conditions,  a  fatal  attachment  to  his  dead 
body  and  to  the  other  material  instruments  of  his  earthly 
life.  Obviously  such  a  discovery  would  teach  us  more 
about  dying  than  about  immortality  ;  the  truths  disclosed, 
since  they  would  be  disclosed  by  experiment  and  observa 
tion,  would  be  psycho-physical  truths,  implying  nothing 
about  what  a  truly  disembodied  life  might  be,  if  one  were 
attainable  ;  for  a  disembodied  life  could  by  no  possibility 
betray  itself  in  spectres,  rumblings,  and  spasms.  Actual 
thunders  from  Sinai  and  an  actual  discovery  of  two  stone 
tables  would  have  been  utterly  irrelevant  to  the  moral 
authority  of  the  ten  commandments  or  to  the  existence 
of  a  truly  supreme  being.  No  less  irrelevant  to  a  supra- 
mundane  immortality  is  the  length  of  time  during  which 
human  spirits  may  be  condemned  to  operate  on  earth 
after  their  bodies  are  quiet.  In  other  words,  spectral 
survivals  would  at  most  enlarge  our  conception  of  the 
soul's  physical  basis,  spreading  out  the  area  of  its  mani 
festations  ;  they  could  not  possibly,  seeing  the  survivals 
are  physical,  reveal  the  disembodied  existence  of  the  soul. 


MANY  a  man  dies  too  soon  and  some  are  born  in  the  wrong 
age  or  station.     Could  these  persons  drink  at  the  fountain 


of  youth  at  least  once  more  they  might  do  themselves 
fuller  justice  and  cut  a  better  figure  at  last  in  the  universe. 
Most  people  think  they  have  stuff  in  them  for  greater 
things  than  time  suffers  them  to  perform.  To  imagine  a 
second  career  is  a  pleasing  antidote  for  ill-fortune  ;  the 
poor  soul  wants  another  chance.  But  how  should  a  future 
life  be  constituted  if  it  is  to  satisfy  this  demand,  and  how 
long  need  it  last  ?  It  would  evidently  have  to  go  on  in  an 
environment  closely  analogous  to  earth  ;  I  could  not,  for 
instance,  write  in  another  world  the  epics  which  the 
necessity  of  earning  my  living  may  have  stifled  here,  did 
that  other  world  contain  no  time,  no  heroic  struggles,  or  no 
metrical  language.  Nor  is  it  clear  that  my  epics,  to  be 
perfect,  would  need  to  be  quite  endless.  If  what  is  foiled 
in  me  is  really  poetic  genius  and  not  simply  a  tendency 
toward  perpetual  motion,  it  would  not  help  me  if  in  heaven, 
in  lieu  of  my  dream t-of  epics,  I  were  allowed  to  beget 
several  robust  children.  In  a  word,  if  hereafter  I  am  to 
be  the  same  man  improved  I  must  find  myself  in  the  same 
world  corrected.  Were  I  transformed  into  a  cherub  or 
transported  into  a  timeless  ecstasy,  it  is  hard  to  see  in  what 
sense  I  should  continue  to  exist.  Those  results  might  be 
interesting  in  themselves  and  might  enrich  the  universe  ; 
they  would  not  prolong  my  life  nor  retrieve  my  disasters. 
The  universe  doubtless  contains  all  sorts  of  experiences, 
better  and  worse  than  the  human  ;  but  it  is  idle  to  attribute 
to  a  particular  man  a  life  divorced  from  his  circumstances 
and  from  his  body. 

For  this  reason  a  future  life  is  after  all  best  represented 
by  those  frankly  material  ideals  which  most  Christians 
— being  Platonists — are  wont  to  despise.  It  would  be 
genuine  happiness  for  a  Jew  to  rise  again  in  the  flesh  and 
live  for  ever  in  Ezekiel's  New  Jerusalem,  with  its  ceremonial 
glories  and  civic  order.  It  would  be  truly  agreeable  for  any 
man  to  sit  in  well-watered  gardens  with  Mohammed,  clad 
in  green  silks,  drinking  delicious  sherbets,  and  transfixed  by 
the  gazelle-like  glance  of  some  young  girl,  all  innocence 
and  fire.  Amid  such  scenes  a  man  might  remain  himself 
and  might  fulfil  hopes  that  he  had  actually  cherished  on 
earth.  He  might  also  find  his  friends  again,  which  in 
somewhat  generous  minds  is  perhaps  the  thought  that 


chiefly  sustains  interest  in  a  posthumous  existence.  But 
to  recognize  his  friends  a  man  must  find  them  in  their 
bodies,  with  their  familiar  habits,  voices,  and  interests  ; 
for  it  is  surely  an  insult  to  affection  to  say  that  he  could 
find  them  in  an  eternal  formula  expressing  their  idiosyn 
crasy.  When,  however,  it  is  clearly  seen  that  another  life, 
to  supplement  this  one,  must  closely  resemble  it,  does  not 
the  magic  of  immortality  altogether  vanish  ?  Is  such  a 
reduplication  of  earthly  society  at  all  credible  ?  And  the 
prospect  of  awakening  again  among  houses  and  trees, 
among  children  and  dotards,  among  wars  and  rumours  of 
wars,  still  fettered  to  one  personality  and  one  accidental 
past,  still  uncertain  of  the  future,  is  not  this  prospect 
wearisome  and  deeply  repulsive  ?  Having  passed  through 
these  things  once  and  bequeathed  them  to  posterity,  is  it  not 
time  for  each  soul  to  rest  ? 

Dogmas  about  such  a  posthumous  experience  find  some 
shadowy  support  in  various  illusions  and  superstitions  that 
surround  death,  but  they  are  developed  into  articulate 
prophecies  chiefly  by  certain  moral  demands.  One  of 
these  requires  rewards  and  punishments  more  emphatic 
and  sure  than  those  which  conduct  meets  with  in  this 
world.  Another  requires  merely  a  more  favourable  and 
complete  opportunity  for  the  soul's  development.  Con 
siderations  like  these  are  pertinent  to  moral  philosophy. 
It  touches  the  notion  of  duty  whether  an  exact  hedonistic 
retribution  is  to  be  demanded  for  what  is  termed  merit 
and  guilt :  so  that  without  such  supernatural  remuneration 
virtue,  perhaps,  would  be  discredited  and  deprived  of  a 
motive.  It  likewise  touches  the  ideality  and  nobleness 
of  life  whether  human  aims  can  be  realized  satisfactorily 
only  in  the  agent's  singular  person,  so  that  the  fruits  of 
effort  would  be  forthwith  missed  if  the  labourer  himself 
should  disappear. 

To  establish  justice  in  the  world  and  furnish  an  adequate 
incentive  to  virtue  was  once  thought  the  chief  business 
of  a  future  life.  The  Hebraic  religions  somewhat  over 
reached  themselves  on  these  points  :  for  the  grotesque 
alternative  between  hell  and  heaven  in  the  end  only 
aggravated  the  injustice  it  was  meant  to  remedy.  Life 
is  unjust  in  that  it  subordinates  individuals  to  a  general 


mechanical  law,  and  the  deeper  and  longer  hold  fate  has 
on  the  soul,  the  greater  that  injustice.  A  perpetual  life 
would  be  a  perpetual  subjection  to  arbitrary  power,  while 
a  last  judgment  would  be  but  a  last  fatality.  That  hell 
may  have  frightened  a  few  villains  into  omitting  a  crime 
is  perhaps  credible  ;  but  the  embarrassed  silence  which 
the  churches,  in  a  more  sensitive  age,  prefer  to  maintain 
on  that  wholesome  doctrine — once,  as  they  taught,  the 
only  rational  basis  for  virtue — shows  how  their  teaching 
has  to  follow  the  independent  progress  of  morals.  Never 
theless,  persons  are  not  wanting,  apparently  free  from 
ecclesiastical  constraint,  who  still  maintain  that  the  value 
of  life  depends  on  its  indefinite  prolongation.  By  an 
artifice  of  reflection  they  substitute  vanity  for  reason, 
and  selfish  for  ingenuous  instincts  in  man.  Being  apparently 
interested  in  nothing  but  their  own  careers,  they  forget  that 
a  man  may  remember  how  little  he  counts  in  the  world 
and  suffer  that  rational  knowledge  to  inspire  his  purposes. 
Intense  morality  has  always  envisaged  earthly  goods  and 
evils,  and  even  when  a  future  life  has  been  accepted 
vaguely,  it  has  never  given  direction  to  human  will  or 
aims,  which  at  best  it  could  only  proclaim  more  emphatic 
ally.  It  may  indeed  be  said  that  no  man  of  any  depth 
of  soul  has  made  his  prolonged  existence  the  touchstone 
of  his  enthusiasms.  Such  an  instinct  is  carnal,  and  if 
immortality  is  to  add  a  higher  inspiration  to  life  it  must 
not  be  an  immortality  of  selfishness.  What  a  despicable 
creature  must  a  man  be,  and  how  sunk  below  the  level 
of  the  most  barbaric  virtue,  if  he  cannot  bear  to  live  and 
to  die  for  his  children,  for  his  art,  or  for  his  country  ! 


ANCIENT  culture  was  rhetorical.  It  abounded  in  ideas  that 
are  verbally  plausible  and  pass  muster  in  a  public  speech, 
but  that,  if  we  stop  to  criticize  them,  prove  at  once  to  be 
inexcusably  false.  One  of  these  rhetorical  fallacies  is  the 
maxim  that  men  cannot  live  for  what  they  will  not  witness. 



What  does  it  matter  to  you,  we  may  say  in  debate,  what 
happened  before  you  were  born,  or  what  may  go  on  after 
you  are  buried  ?  And  the  orator  who  puts  such  a  challenge 
may  carry  the  audience  with  him,  and  raise  a  laugh  at  the 
expense  of  human  sincerity.  Yet  the  very  men  who 
applaud  are  proud  of  their  ancestors,  care  for  the  future  of 
their  children,  and  are  very  much  interested  in  securing, 
legally,  the  execution  of  their  last  will  and  testament. 
What  may  go  on  after  their  death  concerns  them  deeply, 
not  because  they  expect  to  watch  the  event  from  hell  or 
heaven,  but  because  they  are  interested  ideally  in  what 
that  event  shall  be,  although  they  are  never  to  witness  it. 
Lucretius,  for  instance,  in  his  sympathy  with  nature,  in 
his  zeal  for  human  enlightenment,  in  his  tears  for  Iphigenia, 
long  since  dead,  is  not  moved  by  the  hope  of  observing, 
or  the  memory  of  having  observed,  what  excites  his  emotion. 
He  forgets  himself.  He  sees  the  whole  universe  spread 
out  in  its  true  movement  and  proportions ;  he  sees  mankind 
freed  from  the  incubus  of  superstition,  and  from  the  havoc 
of  passion.  The  vision  kindles  his  enthusiasm,  exalts 
his  imagination,  and  swells  his  verse  into  unmistakable 
earnestness.  Tf  we  follow  Lucretius,  therefore,  in  narrow 
ing  the  sum  of  our  personal  fortunes  to  one  brief  and  partial 
glimpse  of  earth,  we  must  not  suppose  that  we  need  narrow 
at  all  the  sphere  of  our  moral  interests.  On  the  contrary, 
just  in  proportion  as  we  despise  superstitious  terrors  and 
sentimental  hopes,  and  as  our  imagination  becomes  self- 
forgetful,  we  shall  strengthen  the  direct  and  primitive 
concern  which  we  feel  in  the  world  and  in  what  may  go  on 
there,  before  us,  after  us,  or  beyond  our  ken.  If,  like 
Lucretius  and  every  philosophical  poet,  we  range  over  all 
time  and  all  existence,  we  shall  forget  our  own  persons,  as 
he  did,  and  even  wish  them  to  be  forgotten  if  only  the 
things  we  care  for  may  subsist  or  arise.  He  who  truly 
loves  God,  says  Spinoza,  cannot  wish  that  God  should 
love  him  in  return.  One  who  lives  the  life  of  the  universe 
cannot  be  much  concerned  for  his  own.  After  all,  the  life 
of  the  universe  is  but  the  locus  and  extension  of  ours. 
The  atoms  that  have  once  served  to  produce  life  remain  fit 
to  reproduce  it ;  and  although  the  body  they  might  animate 
later  would  be  a  new  one,  and  would  have  a  somewhat 


different  career,  it  would  not,  according  to  Lucretius,  be  of 
a  totally  new  species ;  perhaps  not  more  unlike  ourselves 
than  we  are  unlike  one  another,  or  than  each  of  us  is  unlike 
himself  at  the  various  stages  of  his  life. 

The  soul  of  nature,  in  the  elements  of  it,  is  then,  accord 
ing  to  Lucretius,  actually  immortal ;  only  the  human 
individuality,  the  chance  composition  of  those  elements, 
is  transitory ;  so  that,  if  a  man  could  care  for  what  happens 
to  other  men,  for  what  befell  him  when  young  or  what 
may  overtake  him  when  old,  he  might  perfectly  well  care, 
on  the  same  imaginative  principle,  for  what  may  go  on 
in  the  world  for  ever.  The  finitude  and  injustice  of  his 
personal  life  would  be  broken  down ;  the  illusion  of 
selfishness  would  be  dissipated ;  and  he  might  say  to 
himself,  I  have  imagination,  and  nothing  that  is  real  is 
alien  to  me. 

Love,  whether  sexual,  parental,  or  fraternal,  is  essentially 
sacrificial,  and  prompts  a  man  to  give  his  life  for  his  friends. 
In  thus  losing  his  life  gladly  he  in  a  sense  finds  it  anew, 
since  it  has  now  become  a  part  of  his  function  and  ideal 
to  yield  his  place  to  others  and  to  live  afterwards  only  in 
them.  While  the  primitive  and  animal  side  of  him  may 
continue  to  cling  to  existence  at  all  hazards  and  to  find 
the  thought  of  extinction  intolerable,  his  reason  and  finer 
imagination  will  build  a  new  ideal  on  reality  better  under 
stood,  and  be  content  that  the  future  he  looks  to  should 
be  enjoyed  by  others.  When  we  consider  such  a  natural 
transformation  and  discipline  of  the  will,  when  we  catch 
even  a  slight  glimpse  of  nature's  resources  and  mysteries, 
how  thin  and  verbal  those  belated  hopes  must  seem  which 
would  elude  death  and  abolish  sacrifice !  Such  puerile 
dreams  not  only  miss  the  whole  pathos  of  human  life,  but 
ignore  those  specifically  mortal  virtues  which  might  console 
us  for  not  being  so  radiantly  divine  as  we  may  at  first 
have  thought  ourselves.  Nature,  in  denying  us  perennial 
youth,  has  at  least  invited  us  to  become  unselfish  and 



PLATONIC  love  is  the  application  to  passion  of  that  pursuit 
of  something  permanent  in  a  world  of  change,  of  something 
absolute  in  a  world  of  relativity,  which  was  the  essence 
of  the  Platonic  philosophy.  If  we  may  give  rein  to  the 
imagination  in  a  matter  which  without  imagination  could 
not  be  understood  at  all,  we  may  fancy  Plato  trying  to 
comprehend  the  power  which  beauty  exerted  over  his 
senses  by  applying  to  the  objects  of  love  that  profound 
metaphysical  distinction  which  he  had  learned  to  make 
in  his  dialectical  studies  —  the  distinction  between  the 
appearance  to  sense  and  the  reality  envisaged  by  the 
intellect,  between  the  phenomenon  and  the  ideal.  The 
whole  natural  world  had  come  to  seem  to  him  like  a  world 
of  dreams.  In  dreams  images  succeed  one  another  without 
other  meaning  than  that  which  they  derive  from  our 
strange  power  of  recognition — a  power  which  enables  us 
somehow,  among  the  most  incongruous  transformations 
and  surroundings,  to  find  again  the  objects  of  our  waking 
life,  and  to  name  those  absurd  and  unmannerly  visions  by 
the  name  of  father  or  mother  or  by  any  other  familiar 
name.  As  these  resemblances  to  real  things  make  up  all 
the  truth  of  our  dream,  and  these  recognitions  all  its 
meaning,  so  Plato  thought  that  all  the  truth  and  meaning 
of  earthly  things  was  the  reference  they  contained  to  a 
heavenly  original.  This  heavenly  original  we  remember 
and  recognize  even  among  the  distortions,  disappearances, 
and  multiplications  of  its  earthly  copies. 

This  thought  is  easily  applicable  to  the  affections ; 
indeed,  it  is  not  impossible  that  it  was  the  natural  transcend 
ence  of  any  deep  glance  into  beauty,  and  the  lessons  in 
disillusion  and  idealism  given  by  that  natural  metaphysician 
we  call  love,  that  first  gave  Plato  the  key  to  his  general 
system.  There  is,  at  any  rate,  no  sphere  in  which  the 
supersensible  is  approached  with  so  warm  a  feeling  of 
its  reality,  in  which  the  phenomenon  is  so  transparent 
and  so  indifferent  a  symbol  of  something  perfect  and 


divine  beyond.  In  love  and  beauty,  if  anywhere,  even  the 
common  man  thinks  he  has  visitations  from  a  better  world, 
approaches  to  a  lost  happiness  ;  a  happiness  never  tasted 
by  us  in  this  world,  and  yet  so  natural,  so  expected,  that 
we  look  for  it  at  every  turn  of  a  corner,  in  every  new  face  ; 
we  look  for  it  with  so  much  confidence,  with  so  much  depth 
of  expectation,  that  we  never  quite  overcome  our  disappoint 
ment  that  it  is  not  found. 

And  it  is  not  found, — no,  never, — in  spite  of  what  we 
may  think  when  we  are  first  in  love.  Plato  knew  this  well 
from  his  experience.  He  had  had  successful  loves,  or 
what  the  world  calls  such,  but  he  could  not  fancy  that 
these  successes  were  more  than  provocations,  more  than 
hints  of  what  the  true  good  is.  To  have  mistaken  them 
for  real  happiness  would  have  been  to  continue  to  dream. 
It  would  have  shown  as  little  comprehension  of  the  heart's 
experience  as  the  idiot  shows  of  the  experience  of  the  senses 
when  he  is  unable  to  put  together  impressions  of  his  eyes 
and  hands  and  to  say,  "  Here  is  a  table  ;  here  is  a  stool." 
It  is  by  a  parallel  use  of  the  understanding  that  we  put 
together  the  impressions  of  the  heart  and  the  imagination 
and  are  able  to  say,  "  Here  is  absolute  beauty  :  here  is 
God."  The  impressions  themselves  have  no  permanence, 
no  intelligible  essence.  As  Plato  said,  they  are  never 
anything  fixed  but  are  always  either  becoming  or  ceasing 
to  be  what  we  think  them.  There  must  be,  he  tells  us, 
an  eternal  and  clearly  definable  object  of  which  the  visible 
appearances  to  us  are  the  manifold  semblance  ;  now  by 
one  trait  now  by  another  the  phantom  before  us  lights  up 
that  vague  and  haunting  idea,  and  makes  us  utter  its  name 
with  a  momentary  sense  of  certitude  and  attainment. 

Just  so  the  individual  beauties  that  charm  our  attention 
and  enchain  the  soul  have  only  a  transitive  existence  ; 
they  are  momentary  visions,  irrecoverable  moods.  Their 
object  is  unstable  ;  we  never  can  say  what  it  is,  it  changes 
so  quickly  before  our  eyes.  What  is  it  that  a  mother 
loves  in  her  child  ?  Perhaps  the  babe  not  yet  born,  or 
the  child  that  grew  long  ago  by  her  suffering  and  un 
recognized  care  ;  perhaps  the  man  to  be  or  the  youth  that 
has  been.  What  does  a  man  love  in  a  woman  ?  The 
girl  that  is  yet,  perhaps,  to  be  his,  or  the  wife  that  once 


chose  to  give  him  her  whole  existence.  Where,  among 
all  these  glimpses,  is  the  true  object  of  love  ?  It  flies 
before  us,  it  tempts  us  on,  only  to  escape  and  turn  to  mock 
us  from  a  new  quarter.  And  yet  nothing  can  concern  us 
more  or  be  more  real  to  us  than  this  mysterious  good, 
since  the  pursuit  of  it  gives  our  lives  whatever  they  have 
of  true  earnestness  and  meaning,  and  the  approach  to  it 
whatever  they  have  of  joy. 

So  far  is  this  ideal,  Plato  would  say,  from  being  an 
illusion,  that  it  is  the  source  of  the  world,  the  power  that 
keeps  us  in  existence.  But  for  it,  we  should  be  dead. 
A  profound  indifference,  an  initial  torpor,  would  have  kept 
us  from  ever  opening  our  eyes,  and  we  should  have  no 
world  of  business  or  pleasure,  politics  or  science,  to  think 
about  at  all.  We,  and  the  whole  universe,  exist  only  by 
the  passionate  attempt  to  return  to  our  perfection,  by  the 
radical  need  of  losing  ourselves  again  in  God.  That 
ineffable  good  is  our  natural  possession  ;  all  we  honour 
in  this  life  is  but  the  partial  recovery  of  our  birthright ; 
every  delightful  thing  is  like  a  rift  in  the  clouds  through 
which  we  catch  a  glimpse  of  our  native  heaven.  If  that 
heaven  seems  so  far  away  and  the  idea  of  it  so  dim  and 
unreal,  it  is  because  we  are  so  far  from  self-knowledge,  so 
much  immersed  in  what  is  alien  and  destructive  to  the  soul. 


THE  more  we  reflect,  the  more  we  live  in  memory  and  idea, 
the  more  convinced  and  penetrated  we  shall  be  by  the 
experience  of  death  ;  yet,  as  it  is  memory  that  enables 
us  to  feel  that  we  are  dying  and  to  know  that  everything 
actual  is  in  flux,  so  it  is  memory  that  opens  to  us  an  ideal 
immortality,  unacceptable  and  meaningless  to  the  old 
Adam,  but  genuine  in  its  own  way  and  undeniably  true. 
Memory  does  not  reprieve  or  postpone  the  changes  which 
it  registers,  nor  does  it  itself  possess  a  permanent  duration  ; 
it  is,  if  possible,  less  stable  and  more  mobile  than  primary 
sensation.  It  is,  in  point  of  existence,  only  an  internal 


and  complex  kind  of  sensibility.  But  in  intent  and  by  its 
significance  it  plunges  to  the  depths  of  time  ;  it  looks  still 
on  the  departed  and  bears  witness  to  the  truth  that, 
though  absent  from  this  part  of  experience,  and  incapable 
of  returning  to  life,  they  nevertheless  existed  once  in  their 
own  right,  were  as  living  and  actual  as  experience  is  to 
day,  and  still  help  to  make  up,  in  company  with  all  past, 
present,  and  future  mortals,  the  filling  and  value  of  the 

As  the  pathos  and  heroism  of  life  consists  in  accepting 
as  an  opportunity  the  fate  that  makes  our  own  death, 
partial  or  total,  serviceable  to  others,  so  the  glory  of  life 
consists  in  accepting  the  knowledge  of  natural  death  as  an 
opportunity  to  live  in  the  spirit.  The  sacrifice,  the  self- 
surrender,  remains  real ;  for,  though  the  compensation 
is  real,  too,  and  at  moments,  perhaps,  apparently  over 
whelming,  it  is  always  incomplete  and  leaves  beneath 
an  incurable  sorrow.  Yet  reflection  is  a  vital  function  ; 
memory  and  imagination  have  to  the  full  the  rhythm 
and  force  of  life.  These  faculties,  in  envisaging  the  past 
or  the  ideal,  envisage  the  eternal,  and  the  man  in  whose 
mind  they  predominate  is  to  that  extent  detached  in  his 
affections  from  the  world  of  flux,  from  himself,  and  from 
his  personal  destiny.  This  detachment  will  not  make  him 
infinitely  long-lived,  nor  absolutely  happy,  but  it  may 
render  him  intelligent  and  just,  and  may  open  to  him  all 
intellectual  pleasures  and  all  human  sympathies. 

Animal  sensation  is  related  to  eternity  only  by  the  truth 
that  it  has  taken  place.  The  fact,  fleeting  as  it  is,  is 
registered  in  ideal  history,  and  no  inventory  of  the  world's 
riches,  no  true  confession  of  its  crimes,  would  ever  be 
complete  that  ignored  that  incident.  This  indefeasible 
character  in  experience  makes  a  first  sort  of  ideal  immor 
tality,  one  on  which  those  rational  philosophers  like  to 
dwell  who  have  not  speculation  enough  to  feel  quite  certain 
of  any  other.  It  was  a  consolation  to  the  Epicurean  to 
remember  that,  however  brief  and  uncertain  might  be  his 
tenure  of  delight,  the  past  was  safe  and  the  present  sure. 
"  He  lives  happy,"  says  Horace,  "  and  master  over  himself, 
who  can  say  daily,  I  have  lived.  To-morrow  let  Jove 
cover  the  sky  with  black  clouds  or  flood  it  with  sunshine ; 


he  shall  not  thereby  render  vain  what  lies  behind,  he  shall 
not  delete  and  make  never  to  have  existed  what  once  the 
hour  has  brought  in  its  flight."  Such  self-concentration 
and  hugging  of  the  facts  has  no  power  to  improve  them  ; 
it  gives  to  pleasure  and  pain  an  impartial  eternity,  and 
rather  tends  to  intrench  in  sensuous  and  selfish  satisfactions 
a  mind  that  has  lost  faith  in  reason  and  that  deliberately 
ignores  the  difference  in  scope  and  dignity  which  exists 
among  various  pursuits.  Yet  the  reflection  is  staunch 
and  in  its  way  heroic  ;  it  meets  a  vague  and  feeble  aspira 
tion,  that  looks  to  the  infinite,  with  a  just  rebuke  ;  it 
points  to  real  satisfactions,  experienced  successes,  and 
asks  us  to  be  content  with  the  fulfilment  of  our  own  wills. 
If  you  have  seen  the  world,  if  you  have  played  your  game 
and  won  it,  what  more  would  you  ask  for  ?  If  you  have 
tasted  the  sweets  of  existence,  you  should  be  satisfied  ; 
if  the  experience  has  been  bitter,  you  should  be  glad  that 
it  comes  to  an  end. 

Of  course,  as  we  have  seen,  there  is  a  primary  demand 
in  man  which  death  and  mutation  contradict  flatly,  so 
that  no  summons  to  cease  can  ever  be  obeyed  with  com 
plete  willingness.  Even  the  suicide  trembles  and  the 
ascetic  feels  the  stings  of  the  flesh.  It  is  the  part  of 
philosophy,  however,  to  pass  over  those  natural  repug 
nances  and  overlay  them  with  as  much  countervailing 
rationality  as  can  find  lodgment  in  a  particular  mind. 
The  Epicurean,  having  abandoned  politics  and  religion 
and  being  afraid  of  any  far-reaching  ambition,  applied 
philosophy  honestly  enough  to  what  remained.  Simple 
and  healthy  pleasures  are  the  reward  of  simple  and  healthy 
pursuits  ;  to  chafe  against  them  because  they  are  limited 
is  to  import  a  foreign  and  disruptive  element  into  the  case  ; 
a  healthy  hunger  has  its  limit,  and  its  satisfaction  reaches 
a  natural  term.  Philosophy,  far  from  alienating  us  from 
those  values,  should  teach  us  to  see  their  perfection  and 
to  maintain  them  in  our  ideal.  In  other  words,  the  happy 
filling  of  a  single  hour  is  so  much  gained  for  the  universe 
at  large,  and  to  find  joy  and  sufficiency  in  the  flying 
moment  is  perhaps  the  only  means  open  to  us  for  increasing 
the  glory  of  eternity. 

Moving  events,  while  remaining  enshrined  in  this  fashion 


in  their  permanent  setting,  may  contain  other  and  less 
external  relations  to  the  immutable.  They  may  represent 
it.  If  the  pleasures  of  sense  are  not  cancelled  when  they 
cease,  but  continue  to  satisfy  reason  in  that  they  once 
satisfied  natural  desires,  much  more  will  the  pleasures  of 
reflection  retain  their  worth,  when  we  consider  that  what 
they  aspired  to  and  reached  was  no  momentary  physical 
equilibrium  but  a  permanent  truth.  As  Archimedes,  measur 
ing  the  hypothenuse,  was  lost  to  events,  being  absorbed 
in  a  fact  of  much  greater  transcendence,  so  art  and  science 
interrupt  the  sense  for  change  by  engrossing  attention  in 
its  issues  and  its  laws.  Old  age  often  turns  pious  to  look 
away  from  ruins  to  some  world  where  youth  endures  and 
where  what  ought  to  have  been  is  not  overtaken  by  decay 
before  it  has  quite  come  to  maturity.  Lost  in  such  abstract 
contemplations,  the  mind  is  weaned  from  mortal  concerns. 
It  forgets  for  a  few  moments  a  world  in  which  it  has  so 
little  more  to  do  and  so  much,  perhaps,  still  to  suffer. 
As  a  sensation  of  pure  light  would  not  distinguish  itself 
from  the  light  it  revealed,  so  a  contemplation  of  things 
not  implicating  time  in  their  structure  becomes,  so  far  as 
its  own  deliverance  goes,  a  timeless  existence.  Uncon 
sciousness  of  temporal  conditions  and  of  the  very  flight 
of  time  makes  the  thinker  sink  for  a  moment  into  identity 
with  timeless  objects.  And  so  immortality,  in  a  second 
ideal  sense,  touches  the  mind. 

The  will,  too,  is  an  avenue  to  the  eternal.  What  would 
you  have  ?  What  is  the  goal  of  your  endeavour  ?  It 
must  be  some  success,  the  establishment  of  some  order, 
the  expression  of  some  experience.  These  points  once 
reached,  we  are  not  left  merely  with  the  satisfaction  of 
abstract  success.  Being  natural  goals,  these  ideals  are 
related  to  natural  functions.  Their  attainment  does  not 
exhaust  but  merely  liberates,  in  this  one  instance,  the 
function  concerned,  and  so  marks  the  perpetual  point  of 
reference  common  to  that  function  in  all  its  fluctuations. 
Every  attainment  of  perfection  in  an  art — as  for  instance 
in  government — makes  a  return  to  perfection  easier  for 
posterity,  since  there  remains  an  enlightening  example, 
together  with  faculties  predisposed  by  discipline  to  recover 
their  ancient  virtue.  The  better  a  man  evokes  and  realizes 


the  ideal  the  more  he  leads  the  life  that  all  others,  in 
proportions  to  their  worth,  will  seek  to  live  after  him,  and 
the  more  he  helps  them  to  live  in  that  nobler  fashion. 
His  presence  in  the  society  of  immortals  thus  becomes, 
so  to  speak,  more  pervasive.  He  not  only  vanquishes  time 
by  his  own  rationality,  living  now  in  the  eternal,  but  he 
continually  lives  again  in  all  rational  beings. 

Since  the  ideal  has  this  perpetual  pertinence  to  mortal 
struggles,  he  who  lives  in  the  ideal  and  leaves  it  expressed 
in  society  or  in  art  enjoys  a  double  immortality.  The 
eternal  has  absorbed  him  while  he  lived,  and  when  he  is 
dead  his  influence  brings  others  to  the  same  absorption, 
making  them,  through  that  ideal  identity  with  the  best 
in  him,  reincarnations  and  perennial  seats  of  all  in  him 
which  he  could  rationally  hope  to  rescue  from  destruction. 
He  can  say,  without  any  subterfuge  or  desire  to  delude 
himself,  that  he  shall  not  wholly  die  ;  for  he  will  have  a 
better  notion  than  the  vulgar  of  what  constitutes  his  being. 
By  becoming  the  spectator  and  confessor  of  his  own  death 
and  of  universal  mutation,  he  will  have  identified  himself 
with  what  is  spiritual  in  all  spirits  and  masterful  in  all 
apprehension  ;  and  so  conceiving  himself,  he  may  truly 
feel  and  know  that  he  is  eternal. 

Nothing  is  eternal  in  its  duration.  The  tide  of  evolution 
carries  everything  before  it,  thoughts  no  less  than  bodies, 
and  persons  no  less  than  nations.  Yet  all  things  are 
eternal  in  their  status,  as  truth  is.  The  place  which  an 
event  fills  in  history  is  its  inalienable  place  ;  the  character 
that  an  act  or  a  feeling  possesses  in  passing  is  its  inalienable 
character.  Now,  the  human  mind  is  not  merely  animal, 
not  merely  absorbed  in  the  felt  transition  from  one  state 
of  life  to  another.  It  is  partly  synthetic,  intellectual, 
contemplative,  able  to  look  before  and  after  and  to  see 
fleeting  things  at  once  in  their  mutual  relations,  or,  as 
Spinoza  expressed  it,  under  the  form  of  eternity.  To  see 
things  under  the  form  of  eternity  is  to  see  them  in  their 
historic  and  moral  truth,  not  as  they  seemed  as  they 
passed,  but  as  they  remain  when  they  are  over.  When 
a  man's  life  is  over,  it  remains  true  that  he  has  lived ;  it 
remains  true  that  he  has  been  one  sort  of  man,  and  not 
another.  In  the  infinite  mosaic  of  history  that  bit  has  its 


unlading  colour  and  its  perpetual  function  and  effect. 
A  man  who  understands  himself  under  the  form  of  eternity 
knows  the  quality  that  eternally  belongs  to  him,  and  knows 
that  he  cannot  wholly  die,  even  if  he  would  ;  for  when  the 
movement  of  his  life  is  over,  the  truth  of  his  life  remains. 
The  fact  of  him  is  a  part  for  ever  of  the  infinite  context 
of  facts.  This  sort  of  immortality  belongs  passively  to 
everything  ;  but  to  the  intellectual  part  of  man  it  belongs 
actively  also,  because,  in  so  far  as  it  knows  the  eternity  of 
truth,  and  is  absorbed  in  it,  the  mind  lives  in  that  eternity. 
In  caring  only  for  the  eternal,  it  has  ceased  to  care  for  that 
part  of  itself  which  can  die.  But  this  sort  of  immortality 
is  ideal  only.  He  who,  while  he  lives,  lives  in  the  eternal, 
does  not  live  longer  for  that  reason.  Duration  has  merely 
dropped  from  his  view ;  he  is  not  aware  of  or  anxious 
about  it ;  and  death,  without  losing  its  reality,  has  lost 
its  sting.  The  sublimation  of  his  interest  rescues  him,  so 
far  as  it  goes,  from  the  mortality  which  he  accepts  and 
surveys.  The  animals  are  mortal  without  knowing  it, 
and  doubtless  presume,  in  their  folly,  that  they  will  live  for 
ever.  Man  alone  knows  that  he  must  die  ;  but  that  very 
knowledge  raises  him,  in  a  sense,  above  mortality,  by 
making  him  a  sharer  in  the  vision  of  eternal  truth.  He 
becomes  the  spectator  of  his  own  tragedy  ;  he  sympathizes 
so  much  with  the  fury  of  the  storm  that  he  has  not  ears 
left  for  the  shipwrecked  sailor,  though  that  sailor  were 
his  own  soul.  The  truth  is  cruel,  but  it  can  be  loved, 
and  it  makes  free  those  who  have  loved  it. 





IT  is  no  longer  the  fashion  among  philosophers  to  decry 
art.  Either  its  influence  seems  to  them  too  slight  to  excite 
alarm,  or  their  systems  are  too  lax  to  subject  anything  to 
censure  which  has  the  least  glamour  or  ideality  about  it. 
Tired,  perhaps,  of  daily  resolving  the  conflict  between 
science  and  religion,  they  prefer  to  assume  silently  a  har 
mony  between  morals  and  art.  Moral  harmonies,  however, 
are  not  given  ;  they  have  to  be  made.  The  curse  of  super 
stition  is  that  it  justifies  and  protracts  their  absence  by 
proclaiming  their  invisible  presence.  Of  course  a  rational 
religion  could  not  conflict  with  a  rational  science ;  and 
similarly  an  art  that  was  wholly  admirable  would  neces 
sarily  play  into  the  hand  of  progress.  But  as  the  real 
difficulty  in  the  former  case  lies  in  saying  what  religion  and 
what  science  would  be  truly  rational,  so  here  the  problem 
is  how  far  extant  art  is  a  benefit  to  mankind,  and  how  far, 
perhaps,  a  vice  or  a  burden. 

That  art  is  prima  facie  and  in  itself  a  good  cannot  be 
doubted.  It  is  a  spontaneous  activity,  and  that  settles 
the  question.  Yet  the  function  of  ethics  is  precisely  to 
revise  prima  facie  judgments  of  this  kind  and  to  fix  the 
ultimate  resultant  of  all  given  interests,  in  so  far  as  they 
can  be  combined.  In  the  actual  disarray  of  human  life 
and  desire,  wisdom  consists  in  knowing  what  goods  to 
sacrifice  and  what  simples  to  pour  into  the  supreme  mixture. 
The  extent  to  which  aesthetic  values  are  allowed  to  colour 
the  resultant  or  highest  good  is  a  point  of  great  theoretic 
importance,  not  only  for  art  but  for  general  philosophy. 
If  art  is  excluded  altogether  or  given  only  a  trivial  role, 
perhaps  as  a  necessary  relaxation,  we  feel  at  once  that  a 



philosophy  so  judging  human  arts  is  ascetic  or  post-rational. 
It  pretends  to  guide  life  from  above  and  from  without ;  it 
has  discredited  human  nature  and  mortal  interests,  and 
has  thereby  undermined  itself,  since  it  is  at  best  but  a 
partial  expression  of  that  humanity  which  it  strives  to 
transcend.  If,  on  the  contrary,  art  is  prized  as  something 
supreme  and  irresponsible,  if  the  poetic  and  mystic  glow 
which  it  may  bring  seems  its  own  complete  justification, 
then  philosophy  is  evidently  still  pre-rational  or,  rather, 
non-existent ;  for  the  beasts  that  listened  to  Orpheus 
belong  to  this  school. 

To  be  bewitched  is  not  to  be  saved,  though  all  the 
magicians  and  aesthetes  in  the  world  should  pronounce 
it  to  be  so.  Intoxication  is  a  sad  business,  at  least  for  a 
philosopher  ;  for  you  must  either  drown  yourself  altogether, 
or  else  when  sober  again  you  will  feel  somewhat  fooled  by 
yesterday's  joys  and  somewhat  lost  in  to-day's  vacancy. 
The  man  who  would  emancipate  art  from  discipline  and 
reason  is  trying  to  elude  rationality,  not  merely  in  art, 
but  in  all  existence.  He  is  vexed  at  conditions  of  excel 
lence  that  make  him  conscious  of  his  own  incompetence 
and  failure.  Rather  than  consider  his  function,  he  pro 
claims  his  self-sufficiency.  A  way  foolishness  has  of  reveng 
ing  itself  is  to  excommunicate  the  world. 

If  a  practice  can  point  to  its  innocence,  if  it  can  absolve 
itself  from  concern  for  a  world  with  which  it  does  not 
interfere,  it  has  justified  itself  to  those  who  love  it,  though 
it  may  not  yet  have  recommended  itself  to  those  who  do 
not.  Now  art,  more  than  any  other  considerable  pursuit, 
more  even  than  speculation,  is  abstract  and  inconsequential. 
Born  of  suspended  attention,  it  ends  in  itself.  It  en 
courages  sensuous  abstraction,  and  nothing  concerns  it 
less  than  to  influence  the  world.  Nor  does  it  really  do  so 
in  a  notable  degree.  Social  changes  do  not  reach  artistic 
expression  until  after  their  momentum  is  acquired  and 
their  other  collateral  effects  are  fully  predetermined. 
Scarcely  is  a  school  of  art  established,  giving  expression  to 
prevailing  sentiment,  when  this  sentiment  changes  and 
makes  that  style  seem  empty  and  ridiculous.  The  expres 
sion  has  little  or  no  power  to  maintain  the  movement  it 
registers,  as  a  waterfall  has  little  or  no  power  to  bring  more 


water  down.  Currents  may  indeed  cut  deep  channels;  but 
they  cannot  feed  their  own  springs — at  least  not  until  the 
whole  revolution  of  nature  is  taken  into  account. 

In  the  individual,  also,  art  registers  passions  without 
stimulating  them  ;  on  the  contrary,  in  stopping  to  depict 
them  it  steals  away  their  life  ;  and  whatever  interest  and 
delight  it  transfers  to  their  expression  it  subtracts  from 
their  vital  energy.  This  appears  unmistakably  in  erotic 
and  in  religious  art.  Though  the  artist's  avowed  purpose 
here  be  to  arouse  a  practical  impulse,  he  fails  in  so  far  as 
he  is  an  artist  in  truth  ;  for  he  then  will  seek  to  move  the 
given  passions  only  through  beauty,  but  beauty  is  a  rival 
object  of  passion  in  itself.  Lascivious  and  pious  works, 
when  beauty  has  touched  them,  cease  to  give  out  what  is 
wilful  and  disquieting  in  their  subject  and  become  alto 
gether  intellectual  and  sublime.  There  is  a  high  breath- 
lessness  about  beauty  that  cancels  lust  and  superstition. 
The  artist,  in  taking  the  latter  for  his  theme,  renders  them 
innocent  and  interesting,  because  he  looks  at  them  from 
above,  composes  their  attitudes  and  surroundings  harmoni 
ously,  and  makes  them  food  for  the  mind.  Accordingly  it 
is  only  in  a  refined  and  secondary  stage  that  active  passions 
like  to  amuse  themselves  with  their  aesthetic  expression. 
Unmitigated  lustiness  and  raw  fanaticism  will  snarl  at 
pictures.  Representations  begin  to  interest  when  crude 
passions  recede,  and  feel  the  need  of  conciliating  liberal 
interests  and  adding  some  intellectual  charm  to  their  dumb 
attractions.  Thus  art,  while  by  its  subject  it  may  betray 
the  preoccupations  among  which  it  springs  up,  embodies  a 
new  and  quite  innocent  interest. 

This  interest  is  more  than  innocent ;  it  is  liberal.  Art 
has  met,  on  the  whole,  with  more  success  than  science  or 
morals.  Beauty  gives  men  the  best  hint  of  ultimate  good 
which  their  experience  as  yet  can  offer ;  and  the  most 
lauded  geniuses  have  been  poets,  as  if  people  felt  that  those 
seers,  rather  than  men  of  action  or  thought,  had  lived 
ideally  and  known  what  was  worth  knowing.  That  such 
should  be  the  case,  if  the  fact  be  admitted,  would  indeed 
prove  the  rudimentary  state  of  human  civilization.  The 
truly  comprehensive  life  should  be  the  statesman's,  for 
whom  perception  and  theory  might  be  expressed  and 



rewarded  in  action.  The  ideal  dignity  of  art  is  therefore 
merely  symbolic  and  vicarious.  As  some  people  study 
character  in  novels,  and  travel  by  reading  tales  of  adven 
ture,  because  real  life  is  not  yet  so  interesting  to  them  as 
fiction,  or  because  they  find  it  cheaper  to  make  their 
experiments  in  their  dreams,  so  art  in  general  is  a  rehearsal 
of  rational  living,  and  recasts  in  idea  a  world  which  we  have 
no  present  means  of  recasting  in  reality.  Yet  this  rehearsal 
reveals  the  glories  of  a  possible  performance  better  than 
do  the  miserable  experiments  until  now  executed  on  the 

When  we  consider  the  present  distracted  state  of  govern 
ment  and  religion,  there  is  much  relief  in  turning  from  them 
to  almost  any  art,  where  what  is  good  is  altogether  and 
finally  good,  and  what  is  bad  is  at  least  not  treacherous. 
When  we  consider  further  the  senseless  rivalries,  the 
vanities,  the  ignominy  that  reign  in  the  "  practical  "  world, 
how  doubly  blessed  it  becomes  to  find  a  sphere  where 
limitation  is  an  excellence,  where  diversity  is  a  beauty,  and 
where  every  man's  ambition  is  consistent  with  every  other 
man's  and  even  favourable  to  it !  It  is  indeed  so  in  art ; 
for  we  must  not  import  into  its  blameless  labours  the 
bickerings  and  jealousies  of  criticism.  Critics  quarrel  with 
other  critics,  and  that  is  a  part  of  philosophy.  With  an 
artist  no  sane  man  quarrels,  any  more  than  with  the  colour 
of  a  child's  eyes.  As  nature,  being  full  of  seeds,  rises  into 
all  sorts  of  crystallizations,  each  having  its  own  ideal  and 
potential  life,  each  a  nucleus  of  order  and  a  habitation  for 
the  absolute  self,  so  art,  though  in  a  medium  poorer  than 
pregnant  matter,  and  incapable  of  intrinsic  life,  generates 
a  semblance  of  all  conceivable  beings.  What  nature  does 
with  existence,  art  does  with  appearance  ;  and  while  the 
achievement  leaves  us,  unhappily,  much  where  we  were 
before  in  all  our  efficacious  relations,  it  entirely  renews  our 
vision  and  breeds  a  fresh  world  in  fancy,  where  all  form  has 
the  same  inner  justification  that  all  life  has  in  the  real 
world.  As  no  insect  is  without  its  rights  and  every  cripple 
has  his  dream  of  happiness,  so  no  artistic  fact,  no  child  of 
imagination,  is  without  its  small  birthright  of  beauty.  In 
this  freer  element,  competition  does  not  exist  and  every 
thing  is  Olympian.  Hungry  generations  do  not  tread 


down  the  ideal  but  only  its  spokesmen  or  embodiments, 
that  have  cast  in  their  lot  with  other  material  things. 
Art  supplies  constantly  to  contemplation  what  nature 
seldom  affords  in  concrete  experience — the  union  of  life 
and  peace. 


How  great  a  portion  of  human  energies  should  be  spent 
on  art  and  its  appreciation  is  a  question  to  be  answered 
variously  by  various  persons  and  nations.  There  is  no 
ideal  a  priori  ;  an  ideal  can  but  express,  if  it  is  genuine,  the 
balance  of  impulses  and  potentialities  in  a  given  soul.  A 
mind  at  once  sensuous  and  mobile  will  find  its  appropriate 
perfection  in  studying  and  reconstructing  objects  of  sense. 
Its  rationality  will  appear  chiefly  on  the  plane  of  percep 
tion,  to  render  the  circle  of  visions  which  makes  up  its  life 
as  delightful  as  possible.  For  such  a  man  art  will  be  the 
most  satisfying,  the  most  significant  activity,  and  to  load 
him  with  material  riches  or  speculative  truths  or  profound 
social  loyalties  will  be  to  impede  and  depress  him.  The 
irrational  is  what  does  not  justify  itself  in  the  end ;  and 
the  born  artist,  repelled  by  the  soberer  and  bitterer  passions 
of  the  world,  may  justly  call  them  irrational.  They  would 
not  justify  themselves  in  his  experience ;  they  make 
grievous  demands  and  yield  nothing  in  the  end  which  is 
intelligible  to  him.  His  picture  of  them,  if  he  be  a  drama 
tist,  will  hardly  fail  to  be  satirical ;  fate,  frailty,  illusion 
will  be  his  constant  themes.  If  his  temperament  could 
find  political  expression,  he  would  minimise  the  machinery 
of  life  and  deprecate  any  calculated  prudence.  He  would 
trust  the  heart,  enjoy  nature,  and  not  frown  too  angrily 
on  inclination.  Such  a  Bohemia  he  would  regard  as  an 
ideal  world  in  which  humanity  might  flourish  congenially. 
A  puritan  moralist,  before  condemning  such  an  infantile 
paradise,  should  remember  that  a  commonwealth  of 
butterflies  actually  exists.  It  is  not  any  inherent  wrong- 
ness  in  such  an  ideal  that  makes  it  unacceptable,  but  only 
the  fact  that  human  butterflies  are  not  wholly  mercurial 


and  that  even  imperfect  geniuses  are  but  an  extreme  type 
in  a  society  whose  guiding  ideal  is  based  upon  a  broader 
humanity  than  the  artist  represents.  Men  of  science  or 
business  will  accuse  the  poet  of  folly,  on  the  very  grounds 
on  which  he  accuses  them  of  the  same.  Each  will  seem  to 
the  other  to  be  obeying  a  barren  obsession.  The  statesman 
or  philosopher  who  should  aspire  to  adjust  their  quarrel 
could  do  so  only  by  force  of  intelligent  sympathy  with 
both  sides,  and  in  view  of  the  common  conditions  in  which 
they  find  themselves.  What  ought  to  be  done  is  that 
which,  when  done,  will  most  nearly  justify  itself  to  all 
concerned.  Practical  problems  of  morals  are  judicial  and 
political  problems.  Justice  can  never  be  pronounced  with 
out,  hearing  the  parties  and  weighing  the  interests  at  stake. 
A  circumstance  that  complicates  such  a  calculation  is 
this  :  aesthetic  and  other  interests  are  not  separable  units, 
to  be  compared  externally ;  they  are  rather  strands  inter 
woven  in  the  texture  of  everything.  ^Esthetic  sensibility 
colours  every  thought,  qualifies  every  allegiance,  and 
modifies  every  product  of  human  labour.  Consequently 
the  love  of  beauty  has  to  justify  itself  not  merely  intrinsi 
cally,  or  as  a  constituent  part  of  life  more  or  less  to  be 
insisted  upon  ;  it  has  to  justify  itself  also  as  an  influence. 
A  hostile  influence  is  the  most  odious  of  things.  The  enemy 
himself,  the  alien  creature,  lies  in  his  own  camp,  and  in  a 
speculative  moment  we  may  put  ourselves  in  his  place  and 
learn  to  think  of  him  charitably  ;  but  his  spirit  in  our  own 
souls  is  like  a  private  tempter,  a  treasonable  voice  weaken 
ing  our  allegiance  to  our  own  duty.  A  zealot  might  allow 
his  neighbours  to  be  damned  in  peace,  did  not  a  certain 
heretical  odour  emitted  by  them  infect  the  sanctuary  and 
disturb  his  own  dogmatic  calm.  In  the  same  way  prac 
tical  people  might  leave  the  artist  alone  in  his  oasis,  and 
even  grant  him  a  pittance  on  which  to  live,  as  they  feed 
the  animals  in  a  zoological  garden,  did  he  not  intrude  into 
their  inmost  conclave  and  vitiate  the  abstract  cogency  of 
their  designs.  It  is  not  so  much  art  in  its  own  field  that 
men  of  science  look  askance  upon,  as  the  love  of  glitter  and 
rhetoric  and  false  finality  trespassing  upon  scientific  ground  ; 
while  men  of  affairs  may  well  deprecate  a  rooted  habit  of 
sensuous  absorption  and  of  sudden  transit  to  imaginary 


worlds,  a  habit  which  must  work  havoc  in  their  own  sphere. 
In  other  words,  there  is  an  element  of  poetry  inherent 
in  thought,  in  conduct,  in  affection  ;  and  we  must  ask 
ourselves  how  far  this  ingredient  is  an  obstacle  to  their 
proper  development. 

To  criticize  art  on  moral  grounds  is  to  pay  it  a  high 
compliment  by  assuming  that  it  aims  to  be  adequate,  and 
is  addressed  to  a  comprehensive  mind.  The  only  way  in 
which  art  could  disallow  such  criticism  would  be  to  protest 
its  irresponsible  infancy,  and  admit  that  it  was  a  more  or 
less  amiable  blatancy  in  individuals,  and  not  art  at  all. 
Young  animals  often  gambol  in  a  delightful  fashion,  and 
men  also  may,  though  hardly  when  they  intend  to  do  so. 
Sportive  self-expression  can  be  prized  because  human 
nature  contains  a  certain  elasticity  and  margin  for  experi 
ment,  in  which  waste  activity  is  inevitable  and  may  be 
precious  :  for  this  license  may  lead,  amid  a  thousand 
failures,  to  some  real  discovery  and  advance.  Art,  like 
life,  should  be  free,  since  both  are  experimental.  But  it 
is  one  thing  to  make  room  for  genius  and  to  respect  the 
sudden  madness  of  poets  through  which,  possibly,  some 
god  may  speak,  and  it  is  quite  another  not  to  judge  the 
result  by  rational  standards.  The  bowels  of  the  earth  are 
full  of  all  sorts  of  rumblings  ;  which  of  the  oracles  drawn 
thence  is  true  can  be  judged  only  by  the  light  of  day.  If 
an  artist's  inspiration  has  been  happy,  it  has  been  so  because 
his  work  can  sweeten  or  ennoble  the  mind  and  because  its 
total  effect  will  be  beneficent.  Art  being  a  part  of  life,  the 
criticism  of  art  is  a  part  of  morals. 


MEN  are  habitually  insensible  to  beauty.  Tomes  of  sesthetic 
criticism  hang  on  a  few  moments  of  real  delight  and  intui 
tion.  It  is  in  rare  and  scattered  instants  that  beauty 
smiles  even  on  her  adorers,  who  are  reduced  for  habitual 
comfort  to  remembering  her  past  favours.  An  aesthetic 
glow  may  pervade  experience,  but  that  circumstance  is 


seldom  remarked  ;  it  figures  only  as  an  influence  working 
subterraneously  on  thoughts  and  judgments  which  in 
themselves  take  a  cognitive  or  practical  direction.  Only 
when  the  aesthetic  ingredient  becomes  predominant  do  we 
exclaim,  How  beautiful !  Ordinarily  the  pleasures  which 
formal  perception  gives  remain  an  undistinguished  part  of 
our  comfort  or  curiosity. 

Taste  is  formed  in  those  moments  when  aesthetic  emotion 
is  massive  and  distinct ;  preferences  then  grown  conscious, 
judgments  then  put  into  words,  will  reverberate  through 
calmer  hours ;  they  will  constitute  prejudices,  habits'  of 
apperception,  secret  standards  for  all  other  beauties.  A 
period  of  life  in  which  such  intuitions  have  been  frequent 
may  amass  tastes  and  ideals  sufficient  for  the  rest  of  our 
days.  Youth  in  these  matters  governs  maturity,  and 
while  men  may  develop  their  early  impressions  more 
systematically  and  find  confirmations  of  them  in  various 
quarters,  they  will  seldom  look  at  the  world  afresh  or  use 
new  categories  in  deciphering  it.  Half  our  standards  come 
from  our  first  masters,  and  the  other  half  from  our  first 
loves.  Never  being  so  deeply  stirred  again,  we  remain 
persuaded  that  no  objects  save  those  we  then  discovered 
can  have  a  true  sublimity.  These  high-water  marks  of 
aesthetic  life  may  easily  be  reached  under  tutelage.  It  may 
be  some  eloquent  appreciations  read  in  a  book,  or  some 
preference  expressed  by  a  gifted  friend,  that  may  have 
revealed  unsuspected  beauties  in  art  or  nature  ;  and  then, 
since  our  own  perception  was  vicarious  and  obviously 
inferior  in  volume  to  that  which  our  mentor  possessed, 
we  shall  take  his  judgments  for  our  criterion,  since  they 
were  the  source  and  exemplar  of  all  our  own.  Thus  the 
volume  and  intensity  of  some  appreciations,  especially 
when  nothing  of  the  kind  has  preceded,  makes  them 
authoritative  over  our  subsequent  judgments.  On  those 
warm  moments  hang  all  our  cold  systematic  opinions  ; 
and  while  the  latter  fill  our  days  and  shape  our  careers  it 
is  only  the  former  that  are  crucial  and  alive. 



THE  value  of  art  lies  in  making  people  happy,  first  in 
practising  the  art  and  then  in  possessing  its  product.  This 
observation  might  seem  needless,  and  ought  to  be  so  ;  but 
if  we  compare  it  with  what  is  commonly  said  on  these 
subjects,  we  must  confess  that  it  may  often  be  denied  and 
more  often,  perhaps,  may  not  be  understood.  Happiness 
is  something  men  ought  to  pursue,  although  they  seldom 
do  so ;  they  are  drawn  away  from  it  at  first  by  foolish 
impulses  and  afterwards  by  perverse  laws.  To  secure 
happiness  conduct  would  have  to  remain  spontaneous 
while  it  learned  not  to  be  criminal ;  but  the  fanatical 
attachment  of  men,  now  to  a  fierce  liberty,  now  to  a  false 
regimen,  keeps  them  barbarous  and  wretched.  A  rational 
pursuit  of  happiness — which  is  one  thing  with  progress  or 
with  the  life  of  reason — would  embody  that  natural  piety 
which  leaves  to  the  episodes  of  life  their  inherent  values, 
mourning  death,  celebrating  love,  sanctifying  civic  tradi 
tions,  enjoying  and  correcting  nature's  ways.  To  dis 
criminate  happiness  is  therefore  the  very  soul  of  art,  which 
expresses  experience  without  distorting  it,  as  those  political 
or  metaphysical  tyrannies  distort  it  which  sanctify  un- 
happiness.  A  free  mind,  like  a  creative  imagination, 
rejoices  at  the  harmonies  it  can  find  or  make  between  man 
and  nature  ;  and,  where  it  finds  none,  it  solves  the  conflict 
so  far  as  it  may  and  then  notes  and  endures  it  with 
a  shudder. 


THERE  would  be  a  kind  of  superstitious  haste  in  the  notion 
that  what  is  convenient  and  economical  is  necessarily  and 
by  miracle  beautiful.  The  uses  and  habits  of  one  place 
and  society  require  works  which  are  or  may  easily  become 
intrinsically  beautiful  ;  the  uses  and  habits  of  another 
make  these  beautiful  works  impossible.  The  beauty  has 


a  material  and  formal  basis  ;  no  fitness  of  design  will 
make  a  building  of  ten  equal  storeys  as  beautiful  as  a 
pavilion  or  a  finely-proportioned  tower ;  no  utility  will 
make  a  steamboat  as  beautiful  as  a  sailing  vessel.  But  the 
forms  once  established,  with  their  various  intrinsic  char 
acters,  the  fitness  we  know  to  exist  in  them  will  lend  them 
some  added  charm,  or  their  unfitness  will  disquiet  us,  and 
haunt  us  like  a  conscientious  qualm.  The  other  interests 
of  our  lives  here  mingle  with  the  purely  aesthetic,  to  enrich 
or  to  embitter  it. 

If  Sybaris  is  so  sad  a  name  to  the  memory — and  who  is 
without  some  Sybaris  of  his  own  ? — if  the  image  of  it  is  so 
tormenting  and  in  the  end  so  disgusting,  this  is  not  because 
we  no  longer  think  its  marbles  bright,  its  fountains  cool, 
its  athletes  strong,  or  its  roses  fragrant ;  but  because, 
mingled  with  all  these  supreme  beauties,  there  is  the 
ubiquitous  shade  of  Nemesis,  the  sense  of  a  vacant  will  and 
a  suicidal  inhumanity.  The  intolerableness  of  this  moral 
condition  poisons  the  beauty  which  continues  to  be  felt. 
If  this  beauty  did  not  exist,  and  was  not  still  desired,  the 
tragedy  would  disappear  and  Jehovah  would  be  deprived 
of  the  worth  of  his  victim.  The  sternness  of  moral  forces 
lies  precisely  in  this,  that  the  sacrifices  morality  imposes 
upon  us  are  real,  that  the  things  it  renders  impossible  are 
still  precious. 

We  are  accustomed  to  think  of  prudence  as  estranging 
us  only  from  low  and  ignoble  things  ;  we  forget  that  utility 
and  the  need  of  system  in  our  lives  are  a  bar  also  to  the  free 
flights  of  the  spirit.  The  highest  instincts  tend  to  dis 
organization  as  much  as  the  lowest,  since  order  or  benefit 
is  what  practical  morality  everywhere  insists  upon,  while 
sanctity  and  genius  are  as  rebellious  as  vice.  The  constant 
demands  of  the  heart  and  the  belly  can  allow  man  only  an 
incidental  indulgence  in  the  pleasures  of  the  eye  and  the 
understanding.  For  this  reason,  utility  keeps  close  watch 
over  beauty,  lest  in  her  wilfulness  and  riot  she  should  offend 
against  our  practical  needs  and  ultimate  happiness.  And 
when  the  conscience  is  keen,  that  which  emits  a  sapor 
haereticus  becomes  so  initially  horrible,  that  no  beauty  can 
ever  be  discovered  in  it ;  the  senses  and  imagination  are 
in  that  case  inhibited  by  the  conscience. 


For  this  reason,  the  doctrine  that  beauty  is  essentially 
nothing  but  the  expression  of  moral  or  practical  good 
appeals  to  persons  of  predominant  moral  sensitiveness,  not 
only  because  they  wish  it  were  the  truth,  but  because  it 
largely  describes  the  experience  of  their  own  minds,  some 
what  warped  in  this  particular.  It  will  further  be  observed 
that  the  moralists  are  much  more  able  to  condemn  than  to 
appreciate  the  effects  of  the  arts.  Their  taste  is  delicate 
without  being  keen,  for  the  principle  on  which  they  judge 
is  one  which  really  operates  to  control  and  extend  aesthetic 
effects ;  it  is  a  source  of  expression  and  of  certain  nuances 
of  satisfaction  ;  but  it  is  foreign  to  the  stronger  and  more 
primitive  aesthetic  values  to  which  the  same  persons  are 
comparatively  blind. 

The  extent  to  which  aesthetic  goods  should  be 
sacrificed  is,  of  course,  a  moral  question  ;  for  the  function 
of  practical  reason  is  to  compare,  combine,  and  harmonize 
all  our  interests,  with  a  view  to  attaining  the  greatest 
satisfactions  of  which  our  nature  is  capable.  We  must 
expect,  therefore,  that  virtue  should  place  the  same  re 
straint  upon  all  our  passions — not  from  superstitious 
aversion  to  any  one  need,  but  from  an  equal  concern  for 
them  all.  The  consideration  to  be  given  to  our  aesthetic 
pleasures  will  depend  upon  their  greater  or  less  influence 
upon  our  happiness  ;  and  as  this  influence  varies  in  different 
ages  and  countries,  and  with  different  individuals,  it  will 
be  right  to  let  aesthetic  demands  count  for  more  or  for  less 
in  the  organization  of  life. 

We  may  indeed,  according  to  our  personal  sympathies, 
prefer  one  type  of  creature  to  another.  We  may  love  the 
martial,  or  the  angelic,  or  the  political  temperament.  We 
may  delight  to  find  in  others  that  balance  of  suscepti 
bilities  and  enthusiasms  which  we  feel  in  our  own  breast. 
But  no  moral  precept  can  require  one  species  or  individual 
to  change  its  nature  in  order  to  resemble  another,  since  such 
a  requirement  can  have  no  power  or  authority  over  those 
on  whom  we  would  impose  it.  All  that  morality  can 
require  is  the  inward  harmony  of  each  life  :  and  if  we 
still  abhor  the  thought  of  a  possible  being  who  should  be 
happy  without  love,  or  knowledge,  or  beauty,  the  aversion 
we  ieel  is  not  moral  but  instinctive,  not  rational  but  human. 


What  revolts  us  is  not  the  want  of  excellence  in  that  other 
creature,  but  his  want  of  affinity  to  ourselves.  Could  we 
survey  the  whole  universe,  we  might  indeed  assign  to  each 
species  a  moral  dignity  proportionate  to  its  general  benefi 
cence  and  inward  wealth  ;  but  such  an  absolute  standard, 
if  it  exists,  is  incommunicable  to  us  ;  and  we  are  reduced 
to  judging  of  the  excellence  of  every  nature  by  its  relation 
to  the  human. 

If  things  of  moment  are  before  us,  we  cannot  stop  to 
play  with  symbols  and  figures  of  speech.  Too  much 
eloquence  in  a  diplomatic  document,  or  in  a  familiar  letter, 
or  in  a  prayer,  is  an  offence  not  only  against  practical  sense, 
but  also  against  taste.  The  occasion  has  tuned  us  to  a 
certain  key  of  sentiment,  and  deprived  us  of  the  power  to 
respond  to  other  stimuli.  We  cannot  attend  to  them  with 
pleasure,  and  therefore  they  lose  the  beauty  they  might 
elsewhere  have  had.  They  are  offensive,  not  in  themselves 
— for  nothing  is  intrinsically  ugly — but  by  virtue  of  our 
present  demand  for  something  different.  A  prison  as  gay 
as  a  bazaar,  a  church  as  dumb  as  a  prison,  offend  by  their 
failure  to  support  by  their  aesthetic  quality  the  moral 
emotion  with  which  we  approach  them.  The  arts  must 
study  their  occasions  ;  they  must  stand  modestly  aside 
until  they  can  slip  in  fitly  into  the  interstices  of  life.  This 
is  the  consequence  of  the  superficial  stratum  on  which  they 
flourish  ;  their  roots,  as  we  have  seen,  are  not  deep  in  the 
world,  and  they  appear  only  as  unstable,  superadded 
activities,  employments  of  our  freedom,  after  the  work  of 
life  is  done  and  the  terror  of  it  is  allayed.  They  must, 
therefore,  fit  their  forms,  like  parasites,  to  the  stouter 
growths  to  which  they  cling. 

Herein  lies  the  greatest  difficulty  and  nicety  of  art.  It 
must  not  only  create  things  abstractly  beautiful,  but  it 
must  conciliate  all  the  competitors  these  may  have  to  the 
attention  of  the  world,  and  must  know  how  to  insinuate 
their  charms  among  the  objects  of  our  passion.  But  this 
subserviency  and  enforced  humility  of  beauty  is  not 
without  its  virtue  and  reward.  If  the  aesthetic  habit  lie 
under  the  necessity  of  respecting  and  observing  our  passions, 
it  possesses  the  privilege  of  soothing  our  griefs.  There  is 
no  situation  so  terrible  that  it  may  not  be  relieved  by  the 


momentary  pause  of  the  mind  to  contemplate  it  aestheti 

Grief  itself  becomes  in  this  way  not  wholly  pain  ;  a 
sweetness  is  added  to  it  by  our  reflection.  The  saddest 
scenes  may  lose  their  bitterness  in  their  beauty.  This 
ministration  makes,  as  it  were,  the  piety  of  the  Muses,  who 
succour  their  mother,  Life,  and  repay  her  for  their  nurture 
by  the  comfort  of  their  continual  presence.  The  aesthetic 
world  is  limited  in  its  scope  ;  it  must  submit  to  the  control 
of  the  organizing  reason,  and  not  trespass  upon  more  useful 
and  holy  ground.  The  garden  must  not  encroach  upon 
the  corn-fields  ;  but  the  eye  of  the  gardener  may  transform 
the  corn-fields  themselves  by  dint  of  loving  observation 
into  a  garden  of  a  soberer  kind.  By  finding  grandeur  in 
our  disasters,  and  merriment  in  our  mishaps,  the  aesthetic 
sense  thus  mollifies  both,  and  consoles  us  for  the  frequent 
impossibility  of  a  serious  and  perfect  beauty. 


NOTHING  but  the  good  of  life  enters  into  the  texture  of 
the  beautiful.  What  charms  us  in  the  comic,  what  stirs 
us  in  the  sublime  and  touches  us  in  the  pathetic,  is  a  glimpse 
of  some  good  ;  imperfection  has  value  only  as  an  incipient 
perfection.  Could  the  labours  and  sufferings  of  life  be 
reduced,  and  a  better  harmony  between  man  and  nature 
be  established,  nothing  would  be  lost  to  the  arts ;  for  the 
pure  and  ultimate  value  of  the  comic  is  discovery ;  of  the 
pathetic,  love ;  of  the  sublime,  exaltation  ;  and  these  would 
still  subsist.  Indeed,  they  would  all  be  increased  ;  and  it 
has  ever  been,  accordingly,  in  the  happiest  and  most  pros 
perous  moments  of  humanity,  when  the  mind  and  the  world 
were  knit  into  a  brief  embrace,  that  natural  beauty  has  been 
best  perceived  and  art  has  won  its  triumphs.  But  it 
sometimes  happens,  in  moments  less  propitious,  that  the 
soul  is  subdued  to  what  it  works  in,  and  loses  its  power  of 
idealization  and  hope.  By  a  pathetic  and  superstitious 


self -depreciation,  we  then  punish  ourselves  for  the  imper 
fection  of  nature.  Awed  by  the  magnitude  of  a  reality 
that  we  can  no  longer  conceive  as  free  from  evil,  we  try  to 
assert  that  its  evil  also  is  a  good  ;  and  we  poison  the  very 
essence  of  the  good  to  make  its  extension  universal.  We 
confuse  the  causal  connexion  of  those  things  in  nature 
which  we  call  good  or  evil  by  an  adventitious  denomina 
tion,  with  the  logical  opposition  between  good  and  evil 
themselves ;  because  one  generation  makes  room  for 
another,  we  say  death  is  necessary  to  life  ;  and  because 
the  causes  of  sorrow  and  joy  are  so  mingled  in  this  world, 
we  cannot  conceive  how,  in  a  better  world,  they  might 
be  disentangled. 

This  incapacity  of  the  imagination  to  reconstruct  the 
conditions  of  life  and  build  the  frame  of  things  nearer  to 
the  heart's  desire  is  fatal  to  a  steady  loyalty  to  what  is 
noble  and  fine.  We  surrender  ourselves  to  a  kind  of  mis 
cellaneous  appreciation,  without  standard  or  goal ;  and 
calling  every  vexatious  apparition  by  the  name  of  beauty, 
we  become  incapable  of  discriminating  its  excellence  or 
feeling  its  value.  We  need  to  clarify  our  ideals,  and  enliven 
our  vision  of  perfection.  No  atheism  is  so  terrible  as  the 
absence  of  an  ultimate  ideal,  nor  could  any  failure  of  power 
be  more  contrary  to  human  nature  than  the  failure  of  moral 
imagination,  or  more  incompatible  with  healthy  life.  For 
we  have  faculties,  and  habits,  and  impulses.  These  are 
the  basis  of  our  demands.  And  these  demands,  although 
variable,  constitute  an  ever-present  intrinsic  standard  of 
value  by  which  we  feel  and  judge.  The  ideal  is  immanent 
in  them  ;  for  the  ideal  means  that  fulfilment  in  which 
our  faculties  would  find  their  freest  employment  and  their 
most  congenial  world.  Perfection  would  be  nothing  but 
life  under  those  conditions.  Accordingly  our  consciousness 
of  the  ideal  becomes  distinct  in  proportion  as  we  advance 
in  virtue  and  in  proportion  to  the  vigour  and  definiteness 
with  which  our  faculties  work.  When  the  vital  harmony 
is  complete,  when  the  act  is  pure,  faith  in  perfection  passes 
into  vision.  That  man  is  unhappy  indeed,  who  in  all  his 
life  has  had  no  glimpse  of  perfection,  who  in  the  ecstasy  of 
love,  or  in  the  delight  of  contemplation,  has  never  been  able 
to  say  :  It  is  attained.  Such  moments  of  inspiration  are 


the  source  of  the  arts,  which  have  no  higher  function  than 
to  renew  them. 

A  work  of  art  is  indeed  a  monument  to  such  a  moment, 
the  memorial  to  such  a  vision  ;  and  its  charm  varies  with 
its  power  of  recalling  us  from  the  distractions  of  common 
life  to  the  joy  of  a  more  natural  and  perfect  activity. 


MERE  sensation  or  mere  emotion  is  an  indignity  to  a  mature 
human  being.  When  we  eat,  we  demand  a  pleasant  vista, 
flowers,  or  conversation,  and  failing  these  we  take  refuge 
in  a  newspaper.  The  monks,  knowing  that  men  should 
not  feed  silently  like  stalled  oxen,  appointed  some  one  to 
read  aloud  in  the  refectory  ;  and  the  Fathers,  obeying  the 
same  civilized  instinct,  had  contrived  in  their  theology 
intelligible  points  of  attachment  for  religious  emotion.  A 
refined  mind  finds  as  little  happiness  in  love  without 
friendship  as  in  sensuality  without  love  ;  it  may  succumb 
to  both,  but  it  accepts  neither.  What  is  true  of  mere  __ 
sensibility  is  no  less  true  of  mere  fancy.  Any  absolute 
work  of  art  which  serves  no  further  purpose  than  to  stimu 
late  an  emotion  has  about  it  a  certain  luxurious  and 
visionary  taint.  We  leave  it  with  a  blank  mind,  and  a  / 
pang  bubbles  up  from  the  very  fountain  of  pleasures.  Art,  / 
so  long  as  it  needs  to  be  a  dream,  will  never  cease  to  provej 
a  disappointment.  Its  facile  cruelty,  its  narcotic  abstrac-' 
tion,  can  never  sweeten  the  evils  we  return  to  at  home  ;  it 
can  liberate  half  the  mind  only  by  leaving  the  other  half 
in  abeyance. 


THERE  is  no  reason  why  cost,  or  the  circumstances  which 
are  its  basis,  should  not,  like  other  practical  values. 
heighten  the  tone  of  consciousness,  and  add  to  the  pleasure 


with  which  we  view  an  object.  In  fact,  such  is  our  daily 
experience  ;  for  great  as  is  the  sensuous  beauty  of  gems, 
their  rarity  and  price  add  an  expression  of  distinction  to 
them,  which  they  would  never  have  if  they  were  cheap. 

The  knowledge  of  cost,  when  expressed  in  terms  of 
money,  is  incapable  of  contributing  to  aesthetic  effect,  but 
the  reason  is  not  so  much  that  the  suggested  value  is  not 
aesthetic,  as  that  no  real  value  is  suggested  at  all.  If  we 
reinterpret  our  price,  however,  and  translate  it  back  into 
the  facts  which  constitute  it,  into  the  materials  employed, 
their  original  place  and  quality,  and  the  labour  and  art 
which  transformed  them  into  the  present  thing,  then  we 
add  to  the  aesthetic  value  of  the  object  by  the  expression 
which  we  find  in  it,  not  of  its  price  in  money,  but  of  its 
human  cost.  We  have  now  the  consciousness  of  the 
human  values  which  it  represents,  and  these  values, 
sympathetically  present  to  the  fancy,  increase  our  present 
interest  and  admiration.  We  feel  a  natural  wonder  in 
what  is  rare  and  affects  us  with  unusual  sensations.  What 
comes  from  a  far  country  carries  our  thoughts  there,  and 
gains  by  the  wealth  and  picturesqueness  of  its  associations. 
And  that  on  which  human  labour  has  been  spent,  especially 
if  it  was  a  labour  of  love,  and  is  apparent  in  the  product, 
has  one  of  the  deepest  possible  claims  to  admiration.  So 
that  the  standard  of  cost,  the  most  vulgar  of  all  standards, 
is  such  only  when  it  remains  empty  and  abstract.  Let 
the  thoughts  wander  back  and  consider  the  elements 
of  value,  and  our  appreciation,  from  being  verbal  and 
commercial,  becomes  poetic  and  real.  Our  sense  of  what 
lies  behind  any  object,  unlovely  though  that  background 
may  be,  gives  interest  and  poignancy  to  that  which  is 
present ;  our  attention  and  wonder  are  engaged,  and  a  new 
meaning  and  importance  is  added  to  such  intrinsic  beauty 
as  the  object  may  possess. 


To  most  people,  I  fancy,  the  stars  are  beautiful ;  but  if 
you  asked  why,  they  would  be  at  a  loss  to  reply,  until  they 

THE  STARS  127 

remembered  what  they  had  heard  about  astronomy,  and 
the  great  size  and  distance  and  possible  habitation  of  those 
orbs.  The  vague  and  illusive  ideas  thus  aroused  fall  in 
so  well  with  the  dumb  emotion  we  were  already  feeling, 
that  we  attribute  this  emotion  to  those  ideas,  and  persuade 
ourselves  that  the  power  of  the  starry  heavens  lies  in  the 
suggestion  of  astronomical  facts. 

The  idea  of  the  insignificance  of  our  earth  and  of  the 
incomprehensible  multiplicity  of  worlds  is  indeed  immensely 
impressive  ;  it  may  even  be  intensely  disagreeable.  There 
is  something  baffling  about  infinity ;  in  its  presence  the 
sense  of  finite  humility  can  never  wholly  banish  the 
rebellious  suspicion  that  we  are  being  deluded.  Our 
mathematical  imagination  is  put  on  the  rack  by  an 
attempted  conception  that  has  all  the  anguish  of  a  night 
mare  and  probably,  could  we  but  awake,  all  its  laughable 
absurdity.  But  the  obsession  of  this  dream  is  an  in 
tellectual  puzzle,  not  an  aesthetic  delight.  Before  the  days 
of  Kepler  the  heavens  declared  the  glory  of  the  Lord  ; 
and  we  needed  no  calculation  of  stellar  distances,  no 
fancies  about  a  plurality  of  worlds,  no  image  of  infinite 
spaces,  to  make  the  stars  sublime. 

Had  we  been  taught  to  believe  that  the  stars  governed 
our  fortunes,  and  were  we  reminded  of  fate  whenever  we 
looked  at  them,  we  should  similarly  tend  to  imagine  that 
this  b'elief  was  the  source  of  their  sublimity ;  and  if  the 
superstition  were  dispelled,  we  should  think  the  interest 
gone  from  the  apparition.  But  experience  would  soon 
undeceive  us,  and  prove  that  the  sensuous  character  of 
the  object  was  sublime  in  itself.  For  that  reason  the 
parable  of  the  natal  stars  governing  our  lives  is  such  a 
natural  one  to  express  our  subjection  to  circumstances,  and 
can  be  transformed  by  the  stupidity  of  disciples  into  a 
literal  tenet.  In  the  same  way,  the  kinship  of  the  emotion 
produced  by  the  stars  with  the  emotion  proper  to  certain 
religious  moments  makes  the  stars  seem  a  religious  object. 
They  become,  like  impressive  music,  a  stimulus  to  worship. 
But  fortunately  there  are  experiences  which  remain 
untouched  by  theory,  and  which  maintain  the  mutual 
intelligence  of  men  through  the  estrangements  wrought 
by  intellectual  and  religious  systems.  When  the  super- 


structures  crumble,  the  common  foundation  of  human 
sentience  and  imagination  is  exposed  beneath.  Did  not 
the  infinite,  by  this  initial  assault  upon  our  senses,  awe  us 
and  overwhelm  us,  as  solemn  music  might,  the  idea  of  it 
would  be  abstract  and  mental  like  that  of  the  infinitesimal, 
and  nothing  but  an  amusing  curiosity.  The  knowledge 
that  the  universe  is  a  multitude  of  minute  spheres  circling, 
like  specks  of  dust,  in  a  dark  and  boundless  void,  might 
leave  us  cold  and  indifferent,  if  not  bored  and  depressed, 
were  it  not  that  we  identify  this  hypothetical  scheme 
with  the  visible  splendour,  the  poignant  intensity,  and  the 
baffling  number  of  the  stars.  So  far  is  the  object  from 
giving  value  to  the  impression,  that  it  is  here,  as  it  must 
always  ultimately  be,  the  impression  that  gives  value  to  the 
object.  For  all  worth  leads  us  back  to  actual  feeling 
somewhere,  or  else  evaporates  into  nothing — into  a  word 
and  a  superstition. 

Now,  the  starry  heavens  are  very  happily  designed  to 
intensify  the  sensations  on  which  their  fascination  must 
rest.  The  continuum  of  space  is  broken  into  points, 
numerous  enough  to  give  the  utmost  idea  of  multiplicity, 
and  yet  so  distinct  and  vivid  that  it  is  impossible  not 
to  remain  aware  of  their  individuality.  The  sensuous, 
contrast  of  the  dark  background — blacker  the  clearer 
the  night  and  the  more  stars  we  can  see — with  the  palpitat 
ing  fire  of  the  stars  themselves,  could  not  be  exceeded  by 
any  possible  device. 

Fancy  a  map  of  the  heavens  and  every  star  plotted 
upon  it,  even  those  invisible  to  the  naked  eye  :  why 
would  this  object,  as  full  of  scientific  suggestion  surely  as 
the  reality,  leave  us  so  comparatively  cold  ?  The  sense 
of  multiplicity  is  naturally  in  no  way  diminished  by  the 
representation  ;  but  the  poignancy  of  the  sensation,  the 
life  of  the  light,  are  gone  ;  and  with  the  dulled  impression 
the  keenness  of  the  emotion  disappears.  Or  imagine  the 
stars,  undiminished  in  number,  without  losing  any  of  their 
astronomical  significance  and  divine  immutability,  mar 
shalled  in  geometrical  patterns  ;  say  in  a  Latin  cross, 
with  the  words  In  hoc  signo  vinces  in  a  scroll  around  them. 
The  beauty  of  the  illumination  would  be  perhaps  increased, 
and  its  import,  practical,  religious,  and  cosmic,  would 

THE  STARS  129 

surely  be  a  little  plainer  ;  but  where  would  be  the  sublimity 
of  the  spectacle  ?  Irretrievably  lost :  and  lost  because 
the  form  of  the  object  would  no  longer  tantalize  us  with 
its  sheer  multiplicity,  and  with  the  consequent  overpower 
ing  sense  of  suspense  and  awe.  Accordingly  things  which 
have  enough  multiplicity,  as  the  lights  of  a  city  seen  across 
water,  have  an  effect  similar  to  that  of  the  stars,  if  less 
intense  ;  whereas  a  star,  if  alone,  because  the  multiplicity 
is  lacking,  makes  a  wholly  different  impression.  The 
single  star  is  tender,  beautiful,  and  mild  ;  we  can  compare 
it  to  the  humblest  and  sweetest  of  things : 

A  violet  by  a  mossy  stone 
Half  hidden  from  the  eye, 
Fair  as  a  star  when  only  one 
Is  shining  in  the  sky. 

It  is,  not  only  in  fact  but  in  nature,  an  attendant  on 
the  moon,  associated  with  the  moon,  if  we  may  be  so 
prosaic  here,  not  only  by  contiguity  but  also  by  similarity. 

Fairer  than  Phoebe's  sapphire-regioned  star 
Or  vesper,  amorous  glow-worm  of  the  sky. 

The  same  poet  can  say  elsewhere  of  a  passionate  lover  : 

He  arose 

Ethereal,  flashed,  and  like  a  throbbing  star. 
Amid  the  sapphire  heaven's  deep  repose. 

How  opposite  is  all  this  from  the  cold  glitter,  the  cruel 
and  mysterious  sublimity  of  the  stars  when  they  are  many  ! 
With  these  we  have  no  tender  associations ;  they  make 
us  think  rather  of  Kant  who  could  hit  on  nothing  else  to 
compare  with  his  categorical  imperative,  perhaps  because 
he  found  in  both  the  same  baffling  incomprehensibility  and 
the  same  fierce  actuality.  Such  ultimate  feelings  are 
sensations  of  physical  tension. 


THERE  is  in  sounds  such   an   exquisite   and  continuous 
gradation  in   pitch,   and  such   a  measurable   relation  in 



length,  that  an  object  almost  as  complex  and  describable 
as  a  visible  one  can  be  built  out  of  them.  Not  that  a 
musical  composition  exists  in  any  mystical  way,  as  a 
portion  of  the  music  of  the  spheres,  which  no  one  is  hearing  ; 
but  that,  for  a  critical  philosophy,  visible  objects  are 
also  nothing  but  possibilities  of  sensation.  To  the  inner 
man,  a  real  world  is  merely  the  shadow  of  that  assurance 
of  eventual  experience  which  accompanies  sanity.  This 
ideal  objectivity  can  accrue  to  any  mental  figment  that 
has  enough  cohesion,  substance,  and  individuality  to  be 
describable  and  recognizable,  and  these  qualities  belong 
no  less  to  audible  than  to  spatial  ideas. 

There  is,  accordingly,  some  justification  in  Schopen 
hauer's  speculative  assertion  that  music  repeats  the  entire 
world  of  sense,  and  is  a  parallel  method  of  expression  of 
the  underlying  substance  or  will.  The  world  of  sound  is 
certainly  capable  of  infinite  variety  and,  were  our  sense 
developed,  of  infinite  extensions,  and  it  has  as  much  as  the 
world  of  matter  the  power  to  interest  us  and  to  stir  our 
emotions.  It  was  therefore  potentially  as  full  of  mean 
ing.  But  it  has  proved  the  less  applicable  and  constant 
apparition  ;  and,  therefore,  music,  which  builds  with  its 
materials,  while  the  purest  and  most  impressive  of  the 
arts,  is  the  least  human  and  instructive  of  them. 

Music  is  essentially  useless,  as  life  is  :  but  both  lend 
utility  to  their  conditions.  That  the  way  in  which  idle 
sounds  run  together  should  matter  so  much  is  a  mystery 
of  the  same  order  as  the  spirit's  concern  to  keep  a  particular 
body  alive,  or  to  propagate  its  life.  Such  an  interest  is, 
from  an  absolute  point  of  view,  wholly  gratuitous  ;  and 
so  long  as  the  natural  basis  and  expressive  function  of 
spirit  are  not  perceived,  this  mystery  is  baffling.  In 
truth  the  order  of  values  inverts  that  of  causes  ;  and 
experience,  in  which  all  values  lie,  is  an  ideal  resultant, 
itself  ineffectual,  of  the  potencies  it  can  conceive.  Delight 
in  music  is  liberal ;  it  makes  useful  the  organs  and  processes 
that  subserve  it.  We  happen  to  breathe,  and  on  that 
account  are  interested  in  breathing ;  and  it  is  no  greater 
marvel  that,  happening  to  be  subject  to  intricate  musical 
sensations,  we  should  be  in  earnest  about  these  too.  The 
human  ear  discriminates  sounds  with  ease  ;  what  it  hears 

MUSIC  131 

is  so  diversified  that  its  elements  can  be  massed  without 
being  confused,  or  can  form  a  sequence  having  a  character 
of  its  own,  to  be  appreciated  and  remembered.  The  eye 
too  has  a  field  in  which  clear  distinctions  and  relations 
appear,  and  for  that  reason  is  an  organ  favourable  to 
intelligence ;  but  what  gives  music  its  superior  emotional 
power  is  its  rhythmic  advance.  Time  is  a  medium  which 
appeals  more  than  space  to  emotion.  Since  life  is  itself 
a  flux,  and  thought  an  operation,  there  is  naturally  some 
thing  immediate  and  breathless  about  whatever  flows  and 
expands.  The  visible  world  offers  itself  to  our  regard  with 
a  certain  lazy  indifference.  "  Peruse  me,"  it  seems  to  say, 
"  if  you  will.  I  am  here  ;  and  even  if  you  pass  me  by  now 
and  later  find  it  to  your  advantage  to  resurvey  me,  I  may 
still  be  here."  The  world  of  sound  speaks  a  more  urgent 
language.  It  insinuates  itself  into  our  very  substance, 
and  it  is  not  so  much  the  music  that  moves  us  as  we  that 
move  with  it.  Its  rhythms  seize  upon  our  bodily  life, 
to  accelerate  or  to  deepen  it ;  and  we  must  either  become 
inattentive  altogether  or  remain  enslaved. 

This  imperious  function  in  music  has  lent  it  functions 
which  are  far  from  aesthetic.  Song  can  be  used  to  keep  in 
unison  many  men's  efforts,  as  when  sailors  sing  as  they 
heave  ;  it  can  make  persuasive  and  obvious  sentiments 
which,  if  not  set  to  music,  might  seem  absurd,  as  often  in 
love  songs  and  in  psalmody.  It  may  indeed  serve  to 
prepare  the  mind  for  any  impression  whatever,  and  render 
the  same  more  intense  when  it  comes.  Music  was  long 
used  before  it  was  loved  or  people  took  pains  to  refine  it. 
It  would  have  seemed  as  strange  in  primitive  times  to  turn 
utterance  into  a  fine  art  as  now  to  make  aesthetic  paces 
out  of  mourning  or  child-birth.  Primitive  music  is  indeed 
a  wail  and  a  parturition  ;  magical  and  suggestive  as  it  may 
be,  for  long  ages  it  never  bethinks  itself  to  be  beautiful. 
It  is  content  to  furnish  a  contagious  melancholy  employ 
ment  to  souls  without  a  language  and  with  little  interest 
in  the  real  world.  Barbaric  musicians,  singing  and  playing 
together  more  or  less  at  random,  are  too  much  carried 
away  by  their  performance  to  conceive  its  effect;  they 
cry  far  too  loud  and  too  unceasingly  to  listen.  A  contagious 
tradition  carries  them  aiong  and  controls  them,  in  a  way, 


as  they  improvise  ;  the  assembly  is  hardly  an  audience  ; 
all  are  performers,  and  the  crowd  is  only  a  stimulus  that 
keeps  every  one  dancing  and  howling  in  emulation.  This 
unconsidered  flow  of  early  art  remains  present,  more  or  less, 
to  the  end.  Instead  of  vague  custom  we  have  schools, 
and  instead  of  swaying  multitudes  academic  example ; 
but  many  a  discord  and  mannerism  survive  simply  because 
the  musician  is  so  suggestible,  or  so  lost  in  the  tumult  of 
production,  as  never  to  reconsider  what  he  does,  or  to 
perceive  its  wastefulness. 

Nevertheless  an  inherent  value  exists  in  all  emitted 
sounds,  although  barbaric  practice  and  theory  are  slow 
to  recognize  it.  Each  tone  has  its  quality,  like  jewels  of 
different  water ;  every  cadence  has  its  vital  expression, 
no  less  inherent  in  it  than  that  which  comes  in  a  posture 
or  in  a  thought.  Everything  audible  thrills  merely  by 
sounding,  and  though  this  perceptual  thrill  be  at  first 
overpowered  by  the  effort  and  excitement  of  action,  yet  it 
eventually  fights  its  way  to  the  top.  Participation  in 
music  may  become  perfunctory  or  dull  for  the  great 
majority,  as  when  hymns  are  sung  in  church  ;  a  mere 
suggestion  of  action  will  doubtless  continue  to  colour  the 
impression  received,  for  a  tendency  to  act  is  involved  in 
perception  ;  but  this  suggestion  will  be  only  an  over-tone 
or  echo  behind  an  auditory  feeling.  Some  performers 
will  be  singled  out  from  the  crowd  ;  those  whom  the 
public  likes  to  hear  will  be  asked  to  continue  alone  ;  and 
soon  a  certain  suasion  will  be  exerted  over  them  by  the 
approval  or  censure  of  others,  so  that  consciously  or 
unconsciously  they  will  train  themselves  to  please. 

Popular  music  needs  to  be  simple,  although  elaborate 
music  may  be  beautiful  to  the  few.  When  elaborate 
music  is  the  fashion  among  people  to  whom  all  music  is 
a  voluptuous  mystery,  we  may  be  sure  that  what  they 
love  is  voluptuousness  or  fashion,  and  not  music  itself. 
Beneath  its  hypnotic  power,  music,  for  the  musician,  has 
an  intellectual  essence.  Out  of  simple  chords  and  melodies, 
which  at  first  catch  only  the  ear,  he  weaves  elaborate 
compositions  that  by  their  form  appeal  also  to  the  mind. 
This  side  of  music  resembles  a  richer  versification  ;  it  may 
be  compared  also  to  mathematics  or  to  arabesques.  A 

MUSIC  133 

moving  arabesque  that  has  a  vital  dimension,  an  audible 
mathematics,  adding  sense  to  form,  and  a  versification 
that,  since  it  has  no  subject-matter,  cannot  do  violence  to 
it  by  its  complex  artifices — these  are  types  of  pure  living, 
altogether  joyful  and  delightful  things.  They  combine 
life  with  order,  precision  with  spontaneity  ;  the  flux  in 
them  has  become  rhythmical  and  its  freedom  has  passed 
into  a  rational  choice,  since  it  has  come  in  sight  of  the 
eternal  form  it  would  embody.  The  musician,  like  an 
architect  or  goldsmith  working  in  sound,  but  freer  than 
they  from  material  trammels,  can  expand  for  ever  his 
yielding  labyrinth  ;  every  step  opens  up  new  vistas,  every 
decision — how  unlike  those  made  in  real  life  ! — multiplies 
opportunities,  and  widens  the  horizon  before  him,  without 
preventing  him  from  going  back  at  will  to  begin  afresh  at 
any  point,  to  trace  the  other  possible  paths  leading  thence 
through  various  magic  landscapes.  Pure  music  is  pure 
art.  Its  extreme  abstraction  is  balanced  by  its  entire 
spontaneity,  and,  while  it  has  no  external  significance,  it 
bears  no  internal  curse.  It  is  something  to  which  a  few 
spirits  may  well  surrender  themselves,  sure  that  in  a  liberal 
commonwealth  they  will  be  thanked  for  their  ideal  labour, 
the  fruits  of  which  many  may  enjoy.  Such  excursions 
into  ultra-mundane  regions,  where  order  is  free,  refine 
the  mind  and  make  it  familiar  with  perfection.  By 
analogy  an  ideal  form  comes  to  be  conceived  and  desiderated 
in  other  regions,  where  it  is  not  produced  so  readily,  and 
the  music  heard,  as  the  Pythagoreans  hoped,  makes  the  soul 
also  musical. 

It  must  be  confessed,  however,  that  a  world  of  sounds 
and  rhythms,  all  about  nothing,  is  a  by-world  and  a  mere 
distraction  for  a  political  animal.  Its  substance  is  air, 
though  the  spell  of  it  may  have  moral  affinities.  Neverthe 
less  this  ethereal  art  may  be  enticed  to  earth  and  married 
with  what  is  mortal.  Music  interests  humanity  most 
when  it  is  wedded  to  human  events.  The  alliance  comes 
about  through  the  emotions  which  music  and  life  arouse 
in  common.  For  sound,  in  sweeping  through  the  body 
and  making  felt  there  its  kinetic  and  potential  stress, 
provokes  no  less  interest  than  does  any  other  physical 
event  or  premonition.  Music  can  produce  emotion  as 


directly  as  can  fighting  or  love.  Nor  is  music  the  only 
idle  cerebral  commotion  that  enlists  attention  and  presents 
issues  no  less  momentous  for  being  quite  imaginary ; 
dreams  do  the  same,  and  seldom  can  the  real  crises  of  life 
so  absorb  the  soul,  or  prompt  it  to  such  extreme  efforts, 
as  can  delirium  in  sickness,  or  delusion  in  what  passes  for 

There  is  perhaps  no  emotion  incident  to  human  life 
that  music  cannot  render  in  its  abstract  medium  by 
suggesting  the  pang  of  it ;  though  of  course  music  cannot 
describe  the  complex  situation  which  lends  earthly  passions 
their  specific  colour.  The  passions,  as  music  renders  them, 
are  always  general.  But  music  has  its  own  substitute  for  dis 
tinct  representation.  It  makes  feeling  specific,  nay,  more 
delicate  and  precise  than. association  with  things  could  make 
it,  by  uniting  it  with  musical  form.  We  may  say  that  besides 
suggesting  abstractly  all  ordinary  passions,  music  creates  a 
new  realm  of  form  far  more  subtly  impassioned  than  is  vulgar 
experience.  Human  life  is  confined  to  a  dramatic  repertory 
which  has  already  become  somewhat  classical  and  worn, 
but  music  has  no  end  of  new  situations,  shaded  in  infinite 
ways  ;  it  moves  in  all  sorts  of  bodies  to  all  sorts  of  adven 
tures.  In  life  the  ordinary  routine  of  destiny  beats  so 
emphatic  a  measure  that  it  does  not  allow  free  play  to 
feeling ;  we  cannot  linger  on  anything  long  enough  to 
exhaust  its  meaning,  nor  can  we  wander  far  from  the 
beaten  path  to  catch  new  impressions.  But  in  music 
there  are  no  mortal  obligations,  no  imperious  needs  calling 
us  back  to  reality.  Here  nothing  beautiful  is  extravagant, 
nothing  delightful  unworthy.  Musical  refinement  finds 
no  limit  but  its  own  instinct,  so  that  a  thousand  shades 
of  what,  in  our  blundering  words,  we  must  call  sadness 
or  mirth,  find  in  music  their  distinct  expression.  Each 
phrase,  each  composition,  articulates  perfectly  what  no 
human  situation  could  embody.  These  fine  emotions 
are  really  new ;  they  are  altogether  musical  and  unex 
ampled  in  practical  life  ;  they  are  native  to  the  passing 
cadence,  absolute  postures  into  which  it  throws  the  soul. 

Thus  music  is  a  means  of  giving  form  to  our  inner 
feelings  without  attaching  them  to  events  or  objects 
in  the  world.  Music  is  articulate,  but  articulate  in  a 

MUSIC  135 

language  which  avoids,  or  at  least  veils,  the  articulation 
of  the  world  we  live  in  ;  it  is,  therefore,  the  chosen  art 
of  a  mind  to  whom  the  world  is  still  foreign.  If  this  seems 
in  one  way  an  incapacity,  it  is  also  a  privilege.  Not  to 
be  at  home  in  the  world,  to  prize  it  chiefly  for  echoes 
which  it  may  have  in  the  soul,  to  have  a  soul  that  can  give 
forth  echoes,  or  that  can  generate  internal  dramas  of 
sound  out  of  its  own  resources — may  this  not  be  a  more 
enviable  endowment  than  that  of  a  mind  all  surface, 
a  sensitive  plate  only  able  to  photograph  this  not  too 
beautiful  earth  ?  Music  serves  to  keep  alive  the  con 
viction,  which  a  confused  experience  might  obscure,  that 
perfection  is  essentially  possible  ;  it  reminds  us  that  there 
are  worlds  far  removed  from  the  actual  which  are  yet  living 
and  very  near  to  the  heart. 

Emotion  is  initially  about  nothing  and  much  of  it 
remains  about  nothing  to  the  end.  What  rescues  a  part 
of  our  passions  from  this  pathological  plight  and  lends 
them  some  other  function  than  merely  to  be,  is  the  ideal 
relevance  which  they  sometimes  acquire.  All  experience 
is  pathological  if  we  consider  its  ground,  but  a  part  of 
it  is  also  rational  if  we  consider  its  import.  The  art  of 
distributing  interest  among  the  occasions  and  vistas  of 
life  so  as  to  lend  them  a  constant  worth,  and  at  the  same 
time  to  give  feeling  an  intelligible  object,  is  at  bottom 
the  sole  business  of  education  ;  but  the  undertaking  is 
long,  and  much  feeling  remains  unemployed  and  un 
justified.  This  objectless  emotion  chokes  the  heart  with 
its  dull  importunity ;  now  it  impedes  right  action,  now 
it  feeds  and  fattens  illusion.  Much  of  it  radiates  from 
primary  functions  which,  though  their  operation  is  half 
known,  have  only  base  or  pitiful  associations  in  human 
life ;  so  that  they  trouble  us  with  deep  and  subtle  cravings, 
the  unclaimed  Hinterland  of  life.  When  music,  either 
by  verbal  indications  or  by  sensuous  affinities,  or  by  both 
at  once,  succeeds  in  tapping  this  fund  of  suppressed  feeling, 
it  accordingly  supplies  a  great  need.  It  makes  the  dumb 
speak,  and  plucks  from  the  animal  heart  potentialities 
of  expression  which  might  render  it,  perhaps,  even  more 
than  human. 

By  its   emotional  range  music  is   appropriate  to  all 


intense  occasions  :  we  dance,  pray,  and  mourn  to  music, 
and  the  more  inadequate  words  or  external  acts  are  to 
the  situation,  the  more  grateful  music  is.  As  the  only 
bond  between  music  and  life  is  emotion,  music  is  out  of 
place  only  where  emotion  itself  is  absent.  If  it  breaks 
in  upon  us  in  the  midst  of  study  or  business  it  becomes  an 
interruption  or  alternative  to  our  activity,  rather  than 
an  expression  of  it ;  we  must  either  remain  inattentive 
or  pass  altogether  into  the  realm  of  sound  (which  may 
be  unemotional  enough)  and  become  musicians  for  the 
nonce.  Music  brings  its  sympathetic  ministry  only  to 
emotional  moments.  There  is  often  in  what  moves  us 
a  certain  ruthless  persistence,  together  with  a  certain 
poverty  of  form  ;  the  power  felt  is  out  of  proportion  to 
the  interest  awakened,  and  attention  is  kept,  as  in  pain, 
at  once  strained  and  idle.  At  such  a  moment  music  is 
a  blessed  resource.  Without  attempting  to  remove  a 
mood  that  is  perhaps  inevitable,  it  gives  it  a  congruous 
filling.  Thus  the  mood  is  justified  by  an  illustration  or 
expression  which  seems  to  offer  some  objective  and  ideal 
ground  for  its  existence  ;  and  the  mood  is  at  the  same 
time  relieved  by  absorption  in  that  impersonal  object. 
So  entertained,  the  feeling  settles.  The  passion  to  which 
at  first  we  succumbed  is  now  tamed  and  appropriated. 
We  have  digested  the  foreign  substance  in  giving  it  a 
rational  form  ;  its  energies  are  merged  in  that  strength 
by  which  we  freely  operate. 

In  this  way  the  most  abstract  of  arts  serves  the  dumbest 
emotions.  Music  is  like  those  branches  which  some  trees 
put  forth  close  to  the  ground,  far  below  the  point  where 
the  other  boughs  separate  ;  almost  a  tree  by  itself,  it 
has  nothing  but  the  root  in  common  with  its  parent. 
Somewhat  in  this  fashion  music  diverts  into  an  abstract 
sphere  a  part  of  those  forces  which  abound  beneath  the 
point  at  which  human  understanding  grows  articulate. 
It  flourishes  on  saps  which  other  branches  of  ideation  are 
too  narrow  or  rigid  to  take  up.  Those  elementary  sub 
stances  the  musician  can  spiritualize  by  his  special  methods, 
taking  away  their  reproach  and  redeeming  them  from  blind 

There   is   consequently  in   music   a  sort   of   Christian 

MUSIC  137 

piety,  in  that  it  comes  not  to  call  the  just  but  sinners  to 
repentance,  and  understands  the  spiritual  possibilities 
in  outcasts  from  the  respectable  world.  If  we  look  at 
things  absolutely  enough,  and  from  their  own  point  of 
view,  there  can  be  no  doubt  that  each  has  its  own  ideal 
and  does  not  question  its  own  justification.  Lust  and 
frenzy,  reverie  or  despair,  fatal  as  they  may  be  to  a  creature 
that  has  ulterior  interests,  are  not  perverse  in  themselves  : 
each  searches  for  its  own  affinities,  and  has  a  kind  of  inertia 
which  tends  to  maintain  it  in  being,  and  to  attach  or 
draw  in  whatever  is  propitious  to  it.  Feelings  are  as 
blameless  as  so  many  forms  of  vegetation  ;  they  can  be 
poisonous  only  to  a  different  life.  They  are  all  primordial 
motions,  eddies  which  the  universal  flux  makes  for  no 
reason,  since  its  habit  of  falling  into  such  attitudes  is  the 
ground-work  and  exemplar  for  nature  and  logic  alike. 
That  such  strains  should  exist  is  an  ultimate  datum  ; 
justification  cannot  be  required  of  them,  but  must  be 
offered  to  each  of  them  in  turn  by  all  that  enters  its  particu 
lar  orbit.  There  is  no  will  but  might  find  a  world  to  dis 
port  itself  in  and  to  call  good,  and  thereupon  boast  that 
it  had  created  the  order  in  which  it  found  itself  expressed. 
But  such  satisfaction  has  been  denied  to  the  majority ; 
the  equilibrium  of  things  has  at  least  postponed  their 
day.  Yet  they  are  not  altogether  extinguished.  Many 
ill-suppressed  possibilities  endure  in  matter,  and  peep 
into  being  through  the  crevices,  as  it  were,  of  the  dominant 
world.  Weeds  they  are  called  by  the  tyrant,  but  in  them 
selves  they  are  aware  of  being  potential  gods.  Why 
should  not  every  impulse  expand  in  a  congenial  paradise  ? 
Why  should  each,  made  evil  now  only  by  an  adventitious 
appellation  or  a  contrary  fate,  not  vindicate  its  own  ideal  ? 
If  there  is  a  piety  towards  things  deformed,  because  it  is 
not  they  that  are  perverse,  but  the  world  that  by  its  laws 
and  arbitrary  standards  decides  to  treat  them  as  if  they 
were,  how  much  more  should  there  be  a  piety  towards 
things  altogether  lovely,  when  it  is  only  space  and  matter 
that  are  wanting  for  their  perfect  realization  ? 



To  turn  events  into  ideas  is  the  function  of  literature. 
Music,  which  in  a  certain  sense  is  a  mass  of  pure  forms, 
must  leave  its  "  ideas  "  imbedded  in  their  own  medium — 
they  are  musical  ideas — and  cannot  impose  them  on  any 
foreign  material,  such  as  human  affairs.  Science,  on  the 
contrary,  seeks  to  disclose  the  bleak  anatomy  of  existence, 
stripping  off  as  much  as  possible  the  veil  of  prejudice 
and  words.  Literature  takes  a  middle  course  and  tries 
to  subdue  music,  which  for  its  purposes  would  be  futile 
and  too  abstract,  into  conformity  with  general  experience, 
making  music  thereby  significant.  Literary  art  in  the 
end  rejects  all  unmeaning  flourishes,  all  complications 
that  have  no  counterpart  in  the  things  of  this  world  or 
no  use  in  expressing  their  relations ;  at  the  same  time 
it  aspires  to  digest  that  reality  to  which  it  confines  itself, 
making  it  over  into  ideal  substance  and  material  for  the 
mind.  It  looks  at  natural  things  with  an  incorrigibly 
dramatic  eye,  turning  them  into  permanent  unities  (which 
they  never  are)  and  almost  into  persons,  grouping  them  by 
their  imaginative  or  moral  affinities  and  retaining  in  them 
chiefly  what  is  incidental  to  their  being,  namely,  the  part 
they  may  chance  to  play  in  man's  adventures. 

Such  literary  art  demands  a  subject-matter  other  than  the 
literary  impulse  itself.  The  literary  man  is  an  interpreter 
and  hardly  succeeds,  as  the  musician  may,  without  experi 
ence  and  mastery  of  human  affairs.  His  art  is  half  genius 
and  half  fidelity.  He  needs  inspiration ;  he  must  wait  for 
automatic  musical  tendencies  to  ferment  in  his  mind, 
proving  it  to  be  fertile  in  devices,  comparisons,  and  bold 
assimilations.  Yet  inspiration  alone  will  lead  him  astray, 
for  his  art  is  relative  to  something  other  than  its  own 
formal  impulse  ;  it  comes  to  clarify  the  real  world,  not 
to  encumber  it ;  and  it  needs  to  render  its  native  agility 
pertinent  to  the  facts  and  to  attach  its  volume  of  feeling 
to  what  is  momentous  in  human  life.  Literature  has  its 
piety,  its  conscience ;  it  cannot  long  forget,  without 


forfeiting  all  dignity,  that  it  serves  a  burdened  and  per 
plexed  creature,  a  human  animal  struggling  to  persuade 
the  universal  Sphinx  to  propose  a  more  intelligible  riddle. 
Irresponsible  and  trivial  in  its  abstract  impulse,  man's 
simian  chatter  becomes  noble  as  it  becomes  symbolic  ; 
its  representative  function  lends  it  a  serious  beauty,  its 
utility  endows  it  with  moral  worth. 


WHY  do  our  practical  men  make  room  for  religion  in  the 
background  of  their  world  ?  Why  did  Plato,  after  banish 
ing  the  poets,  poetize  the  universe  in  his  prose  ?  Because 
the  abstraction  by  which  the  world  of  science  and  of 
practice  is  drawn  out  of  our  experience,  is  too  violent  to 
satisfy  even  the  thoughtless  and  vulgar  ;  the  ideality  of  our 
views  of  nature,  the  conventionality  of  the  drama  we 
call  the  world,  are  too  glaring  not  to  be  somehow  perceived 
by  ah1.  Each  must  sometimes  fall  back  upon  the  soul ; 
he  must  challenge  this  apparition  with  the  thought  of 
death  ;  he  must  ask  himself  for  the  mainspring  and  value 
of  his  life.  He  will  then  remember  his  stifled  loves ;  he 
will  feel  that  only  his  illusions  have  ever  given  him  a  sense 
of  reality,  only  his  passions  the  hope  and  the  vision  of 
peace.  He  will  read  himself  through  and  almost  gather  a 
meaning  from  his  experience  ;  at  least  he  will  half  believe 
that  all  he  has  been  dealing  with  was  a  dream  and  a  symbol, 
and  raise  his  eyes  toward  the  truth  beyond. 

This  plastic  moment  of  the  mind,  when  we  become 
aware  of  the  artificiality  and  inadequacy  of  what  common 
sense  conceives,  is  the  true  moment  of  poetic  opportunity, 
— an  opportunity,  we  may  hasten  to  confess,  which  is 
generally  missed.  The  strain  of  attention,  the  concentra 
tion  and  focussing  of  thought  on  the  unfamiliar  immediacy 
of  things,  usually  brings  about  nothing  but  confusion. 
We  are  dazed,  we  are  filled  with  a  sense  of  unutterable 
things,  luminous  yet  indistinguishable,  many  yet  one. 
Instead  of  rising  to  imagination,  we  sink  into  mysticism. 


To  accomplish  a  mystical  disintegration  is  not  the 
function  of  any  art  ;  if  any  art  seems  to  accomplish  it, 
the  effect  is  only  incidental,  being  involved,  perhaps,  in 
the  process  of  constructing  the  proper  object  of  that  art, 
as  we  might  cut  down  trees  and  dig  them  up  by  the  roots 
to  lay  the  foundations  of  a  temple.  For  every  art  looks 
to  the  building  up  of  something.  And  just  because  the 
image  of  the  world  built  up  by  common  sense  and  natural 
science  is  an  inadequate  image  (a  skeleton  which  needs 
the  filling  of  sensation  before  it  can  live),  therefore  the 
moment  when  we  realize  its  inadequacy  is  the  moment  when 
the  higher  arts  find  their  opportunity.  When  the  world 
is  shattered  to  bits  they  can  come  and  "  build  it  nearer  to 
the  heart's  desire." 

The  great  function  of  poetry  is  precisely  this  :  to  repair 
to  the  material  of  experience,  seizing  hold  of  the  reality  of 
sensation  and  fancy  beneath  the  surface  of  conventional 
ideas,  and  then  out  of  that  living  but  indefinite  material 
to  build  new  structures,  richer,  finer,  fitter  to  the  primary 
tendencies  of  our  nature,  truer  to  the  ultimate  possibilities 
of  the  soul.  Our  descent  into  the  elements  of  our  being 
is  then  justified  by  our  subsequent  freer  ascent  toward  its 
goal ;  we  revert  to  sense  only  to  find  food  for  reason  ;  we 
destroy  conventions  only  to  construct  ideals. 


ARE  poets  at  heart  in  search  of  a  philosophy  ?  Or  is 
philosophy  in  the  end  nothing  but  poetry  ?  Let  us 
consider  the  situation. 

The  reasonings  and  investigations  of  philosophy  are 
arduous,  and  if  poetry  is  to  be  linked  with  them,  it  can 
be  artificially  only,  and  with  a  bad  grace.  But  the  vision 
of  philosophy  is  sublime.  The  order  it  reveals  in  the 
world  is  something  beautiful,  tragic,  sympathetic  to  the 
mind,  and  just  what  every  poet,  on  a  small  or  on  a  large 
scale,  is  always  trying  to  catch. 

In   philosophy  itself  investigation   and   reasoning   are 


only  preparatory  and  servile  parts,  means  to  an  end. 
They  terminate  in  insight,  or  what  in  the  noblest  sense 
of  the  word  may  be  called  theory,  0ea>pi'a, — a  steady 
contemplation  of  all  things  in  their  order  and  worth. 
Such  contemplation  is  imaginative.  No  one  can  reach 
it  who  has  not  enlarged  his  mind  and  tamed  his  heart. 
A  philosopher  who  attains  it  is,  for  the  moment,  a  poet ; 
and  a  poet  who  turns  his  practised  and  passionate  imagina 
tion  on  the  order  of  all  things,  or  on  anything  in  the  light 
of  the  whole,  is  for  that  moment  a  philosopher. 

Nevertheless,  even  if  we  grant  that  the  philosopher,  in 
his  best  moments,  is  a  poet,  we  may  suspect  that  the  poet 
has  his  worst  moments  when  he  tries  to  be  a  philosopher, 
or  rather,  when  he  succeeds  in  being  one.  Philosophy  is 
something  reasoned  and  heavy  ;  poetry  something  winged, 
flashing,  inspired.  Take  almost  any  longish  poem,  and 
the  parts  of  it  are  better  than  the  whole.  A  poet  is  able 
to  put  together  a  few  words,  a  cadence  or  two,  a  single 
interesting  image.  He  renders  in  that  way  some  moment 
of  comparatively  high  tension,  of  comparatively  keen 
sentiment.  But  at  the  next  moment  the  tension  is  relaxed, 
the  sentiment  has  faded,  and  what  succeeds  is  usually 
incongruous  with  what  went  before,  or  at  least  inferior. 
The  thought  drifts  away  from  what  it  had  started  to  be. 
It  is  lost  in  the  sands  of  versification.  As  man  is  now 
constituted,  to  be  brief  is  almost  a  condition  of  being 

Shall  we  say,  then, — and  I  now  broach  an  idea  by 
which  I  set  some  store, — that  poetry  is  essentially  short- 
winded,  that  what  is  poetic  is  necessarily  intermittent 
in  the  writings  of  poets,  that  only  the  fleeting  moment, 
the  mood,  the  episode,  can  be  rapturously  felt,  or  rap 
turously  rendered,  while  life  as  a  whole,  history,  character, 
and  destiny  are  objects  unfit  for  imagination  to  dwell  on, 
and  repellent  to  poetic  art  ?  I  cannot  think  so.  If  it  be 
a  fact,  as  it  often  is,  that  we  find  little  things  pleasing 
and  great  things  arid  and  formless,  and  if  we  are  better 
poets  in  a  line  than  in  an  epic,  that  is  simply  due  to  lack 
of  faculty  on  our  part,  lack  of  imagination  and  memory, 
and  above  all  to  lack  of  discipline. 

This  might  be  shown,  I  think,  by  psychological  analysis, 


if  we  cared  to  rely  on  something  so  abstract  and  so  debatable. 
For  in  what  does  the  short-winded  poet  himself  excel 
the  common  unimaginative  person  who  talks  or  who 
stares  ?  Is  it  that  he  thinks  even  less  ?  Rather,  I  suppose, 
in  that  he  feels  more  ;  in  that  his  moment  of  intuition, 
though  fleeting,  has  a  vision,  a  scope,  a  symbolic  some 
thing  about  it  that  renders  it  deep  and  expressive.  Inten 
sity,  even  momentary  intensity,  if  it  can  be  expressed  at 
all,  comports  fullness  and  suggestion  compressed  into  that 
intense  moment.  Yes,  everything  that  comes  to  us  at 
all  must  come  to  us  at  some  time  or  other.  It  is  always 
the  fleeting  moment  in  which  we  live.  To  this  fleeting 
moment  the  philosopher,  as  well  as  the  poet,  is  actually 
confined.  Each  must  enrich  it  with  his  endless  vistas, 
vistas  necessarily  focussed,  if  they  are  to  be  disclosed  at 
all,  in  the  eye  of  the  observer,  here  and  now.  What  makes 
the  difference  between  a  moment  of  poetic  insight  and  a 
vulgar  moment  is  that  the  passions  of  the  poetic  moment 
have  more  perspective.  Even  the  short-winded  poet 
selects  his  words  so  that  they  have  a  magic  momentum 
in  them  which  carries  us,  we  know  not  how,  to  mountain- 
tops  of  intuition.  Is  not  the  poetic  quality  of  phrases 
and  images  due  to  their  concentrating  and  liberating 
the  confused  promptings  left  in  us  by  a  long  experience  ? 
When  we  feel  the  poetic  thrill,  is  it  not  that  we  find  sweep 
in  the  concise  and  depth  in  the  clear,  as  we  might  find  all 
the  lights  of  the  sea  in  the  water  of  a  jewel  ?  And  what  is 
a  philosophic  thought  but  such  an  epitome  ? 

If  a  short  passage  is  poetical  because  it  is  pregnant 
with  suggestion  of  a  few  things,  which  stretches  our  atten 
tion  and  makes  us  rapt  and  serious,  how  much  more  poetical 
ought  a  vision  to  be  which  was  pregnant  with  all  we  care 
for  ?  Focus  a  little  experience,  give  some  scope  and  depth 
to  your  feeling,  and  it  grows  imaginative  ;  give  it  more 
scope  and  more  depth,  focus  all  experience  within  it,  make 
it  a  philosopher's  vision  of  the  world,  and  it  will  grow 
imaginative  in  a  superlative  degree,  and  be  supremely 
poetical.  The  difficulty,  after  having  the  experience  to 
symbolize,  lies  only  in  having  enough  imagination  to  hold 
and  suspend  it  in  a  thought ;  and  further  to  give  this 
thought  such  verbal  expression  that  others  may  be  able 


to  decipher  it,  and  to  be  stirred  by  it  as  by  a  wind  of 
suggestion  sweeping  the  whole  forest  of  their  memories. 

Poetry,  then,  is  not  poetical  for  being  short-winded 
or  incidental,  but,  on  the  contrary,  for  being  comprehensive 
and  having  range.  If  too  much  matter  renders  it  heavy, 
that  is  the  fault  of  the  poet's  weak  intellect,  not  of  the 
outstretched  world.  A  quicker  eye,  a  more  synthetic 
imagination,  might  grasp  a  larger  subject  with  the  same 
ease.  As  in  a  supreme  dramatic  crisis  all  our  life  seems 
to  be  focussed  in  the  present,  and  used  in  colouring  our 
consciousness  and  shaping  our  decisions,  so  for  each  philo 
sophic  poet  the  whole  world  of  man  is  gathered  together  ; 
and  he  is  never  so  much  a  poet  as  when,  in  a  single  cry, 
he  summons  all  that  has  affinity  to  him  in  the  universe, 
and  salutes  his  ultimate  destiny.  It  is  the  acme  of  life 
to  understand  life.  The  height  of  poetry  is  to  speak  the 
language  of  the  gods. 

There  is  a  kind  of  sensualism  or  sestheticism  that  has 
decreed  in  our  day  that  theory  is  not  poetical ;  as  if  all 
the  images  and  emotions  that  enter  a  cultivated  mind 
were  not  saturated  with  theory.  The  prevalence  of  such  a 
sensualism  or  sestheticism  would  alone  suffice  to  explain  the 
impotence  of  the  arts.  The  life  of  theory  is  not  less  human 
or  less  emotional  than  the  life  of  sense  ;  it  is  more  typically 
human  and  more  keenly  emotional.  Philosophy  is  a  more 
intense  sort  of  experience  than  common  life  is,  just  as 
pure  and  subtle  music,  heard  in  retirement,  is  something 
keener  and  more  intense  than  the  howling  of  storms  or 
the  rumble  of  cities.  For  this  reason  philosophy,  when 
a  poet  is  not  mindless,  enters  inevitably  into  his  poetry, 
since  it  has  entered  into  his  life ;  or  rather,  the  detail  of 
things  and  the  detail  of  ideas  pass  equally  into  his  verse, 
when  both  alike  lie  in  the  path  that  has  led  him  to  his 
ideal.  To  object  to  theory  in  poetry  would  be  like  objecting 
to  words  there  ;  for  words,  too,  are  symbols  without  the 
sensuous  character  of  the  things  they  stand  for  ;  and  yet 
it  is  only  by  the  net  of  new  connexions  which  words 
throw  over  things,  in  recalling  them,  that  poetry  arises 
at  all.  Poetry  is  an  attenuation,  a  rehandling,  an  echo 
of  crude  experience  ;  it  is  itself  a  theoretic  vision  of  things 
at  arm's  length. 


Heard  philosophies  are  sweet,  but  those  unheard  may 
be  sweeter.  They  may  be  more  unmixed  and  more  pro 
found  for  being  adopted  unconsciously,  for  being  lived 
rather  than  taught.  This  is  not  merely  to  say  what 
might  be  said  of  every  work  of  art  and  of  every  natural 
object,  that  it  could  be  made  the  starting-point  for  a 
chain  of  inferences  that  should  reveal  the  whole  universe, 
like  the  flower  in  the  crannied  wall.  It  is  to  say,  rather, 
that  the  vital  straining  towards  an  ideal,  definite  but 
latent,  when  it  dominates  a  whole  life,  may  express  that 
ideal  more  fully  than  could  the  best-chosen  words. 


IF  poetry  in  its  higher  reaches  is  more  philosophical  than 
history,  because  it  presents  the  memorable  types  of  men 
and  things  apart  from  unmeaning  circumstances,  so  in  its 
primary  substance  and  texture  poetry  is  more  philosophical 
than  prose  because  it  is  nearer  to  our  immediate  experience. 
Poetry  breaks  up  the  trite  conceptions  designated  by 
current  words  into  the  sensuous  qualities  out  of  which 
those  conceptions  were  originally  put  together.  We  name 
what  we  conceive  and  believe  in,  not  what  we  see  ;  things, 
not  images ;  souls,  not  voices  and  silhouettes.  This 
naming,  with  the  whole  education  of  the  senses  which  it 
accompanies,  subserves  the  uses  of  life  ;  in  order  to  thread 
our  way  through  the  labyrinth  of  objects  which  assault  us, 
we  must  make  a  great  selection  in  our  sensuous  experience  ; 
half  of  what  we  see  and  hear  we  must  pass  over  as  in 
significant,  while  we  piece  out  the  other  half  with  such  an 
ideal  complement  as  is  necessary  to  turn  it  into  a  fixed 
and  well-ordered  conception  of  the  world.  This  labour 
of  perception  and  understanding,  this  spelling  of  the 
material  meaning  of  experience,  is  enshrined  in  our  worka 
day  language  and  ideas  ;  ideas  which  are  literally  poetic 
in  the  sense  that  they  are  "  made  "  (for  every  conception 
in  an  adult  mind  is  a  fiction),  but  which  are  at  the  same 


time  prosaic  because  they  are  made  economically,  by 
abstraction,  and  for  use. 

When  the  child  of  poetic  genius,  who  has  learned  this 
intellectual  and  utilitarian  language  in  the  cradle,  goes 
afield  and  gathers  for  himself  the  aspects  of  nature,  he 
begins  to  encumber  his  mind  with  the  many  living  impres 
sions  which  the  intellect  rejected,  and  which  the  language 
of  the  intellect  can  hardly  convey ;  he  labours  with  his 
nameless  burden  of  perception,  and  wastes  himself  in 
aimless  impulses  of  emotion  and  reverie,  until  finally  the 
method  of  some  art  offers  a  vent  to  his  inspiration,  or  to 
such  part  of  it  as  can  survive  the  test  of  time  and  the 
discipline  of  expression. 

The  poet  retains  by  nature  the  innocence  of  the  eye, 
or  recovers  it  easily ;  he  disintegrates  the  fictions  of 
common  perception  into  their  sensuous  elements,  gathers 
these  together  again  into  chance  groups  as  the  accidents  of 
his  environment  or  the  affinities  of  his  temperament  may 
conjoin  them  ;  and  this  wealth  of  sensation  and  this 
freedom  of  fancy,  which  make  an  extraordinary  ferment  in 
his  ignorant  heart,  presently  bubble  over  into  some  kind 
of  utterance. 

The  fullness  and  sensuousness  of  such  effusions  bring 
them  nearer  to  our  actual  perceptions  than  common 
discourse  could  come  ;  yet  they  may  easily  seem  remote, 
overloaded,  and  obscure  to  those  accustomed  to  think 
entirely  in  symbols,  and  never  to  be  interrupted  in  the 
algebraic  rapidity  of  their  thinking  by  a  moment's  pause 
and  examination  of  heart,  nor  ever  to  plunge  for  a  moment 
into  that  torrent  of  sensation  and  imagery  over  which  the 
bridge  of  prosaic  associations  habitually  carries  us  safe 
and  dry  to  some  conventional  act.  How  slight  that 
bridge  commonly  is,  how  much  an  affair  of  trestles  and 
wire,  we  can  hardly  conceive  until  we  have  trained  our 
selves  to  an  extreme  sharpness  of  introspection.  But 
psychologists  have  discovered,  what  laymen  generally 
will  confess,  that  we  hurry  by  the  procession  of  our  mental 
images  as  we  do  by  the  traffic  of  the  street,  intent  on 
business,  gladly  forgetting  the  noise  and  movement  of 
the  scene,  and  looking  only  for  the  corner  we  would  turn 
or  the  door  we  would  enter.  Yet  in  our  alertest  moment 


the  depths  of  the  soul  are  still  dreaming  ;  the  real  world 
stands  drawn  in  bare  outline  against  a  background  of 
chaos  and  unrest.  Our  logical  thoughts  dominate  experi 
ence  only  as  the  parallels  and  meridians  make  a  checker 
board  of  the  sea.  They  guide  our  voyage  without  con 
trolling  the  waves,  which  toss  for  ever  in  spite  of  our 
ability  to  ride  over  them  to  our  chosen  ends.  Sanity  is  a 
madness  put  to  good  uses  ;  waking  life  is  a  dream  controlled. 
Out  of  the  neglected  riches  of  this  dream  the  poet 
fetches  his  wares.  He  dips  into  the  chaos  that  underlies 
the  rational  shell  of  the  world  and  brings  up  some  super 
fluous  image,  some  emotion  dropped  by  the  way,  and 
reattaches  it  to  the  present  object ;  he  reinstates  things 
unnecessary,  he  emphasizes  things  ignored,  he  paints  in 
again  into  the  landscape  the  tints  which  the  intellect  has 
allowed  to  fade  from  it.  If  he  seems  sometimes  to  obscure 
a  fact,  it  is  only  because  he  is  restoring  an  experience. 
The  first  element  which  the  intellect  rejects  in  forming 
its  ideas  of  things  is  the  emotion  which  accompanies  the 
perception  ;  and  this  emotion  is  the  first  thing  the  poet 
restores.  He  stops  at  the  image,  because  he  stops  to  enjoy. 
He  wanders  into  the  bypaths  of  association  because  the 
bypaths  are  delightful.  The  love  of  beauty  which  made 
him  give  measure  and  cadence  to  his  words,  the  love  of 
harmony  which  made  him  rhyme  them,  reappear  in  his 
imagination  and  make  him  select  there  also  the  material 
that  is  itself  beautiful,  or  capable  of  assuming  beautiful 
forms.  The  link  that  binds  together  the  ideas,  sometimes 
so  wide  apart,  which  his  wit  assimilates,  is  most  often  the 
link  of  emotion  ;  they  have  in  common  some  element  of 
beauty  or  of  horror. 


POETRY,  while  truly  poetical,  never  loses  sight  of  initial 
feelings  and  underlying  appeals ;  it  is  incorrigibly  tran 
scendental,  and  takes  every  present  passion  and  every 
private  dream  in  turn  for  the  core  of  the  universe.  By 


creating  new  signs,  or  by  recasting  and  crossing  those 
which  have  become  conventional,  it  keeps  communication 
massive  and  instinctive,  immersed  in  music,  and  inex 
haustible  by  clear  thought. 

Lying  is  a  privilege  of  poets  because  they  have  not 
yet  reached  the  level  on  which  truth  and  error  are  dis 
cernible.  Veracity  and  significance  are  not  ideals  for  a 
primitive  mind ;  we  learn  to  value  them  as  we  learn  to 
live,  when  we  discover  that  the  spirit  cannot  be  wholly 
free  and  solipsistic.  To  have  to  distinguish  fact  from 
fancy  is  so  great  a  violence  to  the  inner  man  that  not 
only  poets,  but  theologians  and  philosophers,  still  protest 
against  such  a  distinction.  They  urge  (what  is  perfectly 
true  for  a  rudimentary  creature)  that  facts  are  mere  con 
ceptions  and  conceptions  full-fledged  facts  ;  but  this  in 
teresting  embryonic  lore  they  apply,  in  their  intellectual 
weakness,  to  retracting  or  undermining  those  human  cate 
gories  which,  though  alone  fruitful  or  applicable  in  life, 
are  not  congenial  to  their  half-formed  imagination. 
Retreating  deeper  into  the  inner  chaos,  they  bring  to 
bear  the  whole  momentum  of  an  irresponsible  dialectic 
to  frustrate  the  growth  of  representative  ideas.  In  this 
they  are  genuine,  if  somewhat  belated,  poets,  experi 
menting  anew  with  solved  problems,  and  fancying  how 
creation  might  have  moved  upon  other  lines. 

The  great  merit  that  prose  shares  with  science  is  that 
it  is  responsible.  Its  conscience  is  a  new  and  wiser  imagina 
tion,  by  which  creative  thought  is  rendered  cumulative 
and  progressive  ;  for  a  man  does  not  build  less  boldly 
or  solidly  if  he  takes  the  precaution  of  building  in  baked 
brick.  Prose  is  in  itself  meagre  and  bodiless,  merely 
indicating  the  riches  of  the  world.  Its  transparency  helps 
us  to  look  through  it  to  the  issue,  and  the  signals  it  gives 
fill  the  mind  with  an  honest  assurance  and  a  prophetic 
art  far  nobler  than  any  ecstasy. 

As  men  of  action  have  a  better  intelligence  than  poets, 
if  only  their  action  is  on  a  broad  enough  stage,  so  the  prosaic 
rendering  of  experience  has  the  greater  value,  if  only  the 
experience  rendered  covers  enough  human  interests. 
Youth  and  aspiration  indulge  in  poetry ;  a  mature  and 
masterful  mind  will  often  despise  it,  and  prefer  to  express 


itself  laconically  in  prose.  It  is  clearly  proper  that  prosaic 
habits  should  supervene  in  this  way  on  the  poetical ;  for 
youth,  being  as  yet  little  fed  by  experience,  can  find  volume 
and  depth  only  in  the  soul ;  the  half-seen,  the  supra- 
mundane,  the  inexpressible,  seem  to  it  alone  beautiful 
and  worthy  of  homage.  Time  modifies  this  sentiment 
in  two  directions.  It  breeds  lassitude  and  indifference 
towards  impracticable  ideals,  originally  no  less  worthy 
than  the  practicable.  Ideals  which  cannot  be  realized, 
and  are  not  fed  at  least  by  partial  realizations,  soon  grow 
dormant.  Life-blood  passes  to  other  veins  ;  the  urgent 
and  palpitating  interests  of  life  appear  in  other  quarters. 
While  things  impossible  thus  lose  their  serious  charm, 
things  actual  reveal  their  natural  order  and  variety ; 
these  not  only  can  entertain  the  mind  abstractly,  but  they 
can  offer  a  thousand  material  rewards  in  observation  and 
action.  In  their  presence,  a  private  dream  begins  to  look 
rather  cheap  and  hysterical.  Not  that  existence  has  any 
dignity  or  prerogative  in  abstraction  from  will,  but  that 
will  itself,  being  elastic,  grows  definite  and  firm  when  it 
is  fed  by  success  ;  and  its  formed  and  expressible  ideals 
then  put  to  shame  the  others,  which  have  remained  vague 
for  want  of  practical  expression.  Mature  interests  centre 
on  soluble  problems  and  tasks  capable  of  execution  ;  it 
is  at  such  points  that  the  ideal  can  be  really  served.  The 
individual's  dream  straightens  and  reassures  itself  by 
merging  with  the  dream  of  humanity.  To  dwell,  as 
irrational  poets  do,  on  some  private  experience,  on  some 
emotion  without  representative  or  ulterior  value,  then 
seems  a  waste  of  time.  Fiction  becomes  less  interesting 
than  affairs,  and  poetry  turns  into  a  sort  of  incompetent 
whimper,  a  childish  foreshortening  of  the  outspread  world. 
On  the  other  hand,  prose  has  a  great  defect,  which  is 
abstractness.  It  drops  the  volume  of  experience  in  finding 
bodiless  algebraic  symbols  by  which  to  express  it.  Prose 
seems  to  be  a  use  of  language  in  the  service  of  material 
life.  It  would  tend,  in  that  case,  to  undermine  its 
own  basis  ;  for  in  proportion  as  signals  for  action  are 
quick  and  efficacious  they  diminish  their  sensuous  stimulus 
and  fade  from  consciousness.  Were  language  such  a  set 
of  signals  it  would  be  something  merely  instrumental, 


which  if  made  perfect  ought  to  be  automatic  and  uncon 
scious.  It  would  be  a  buzzing  in  the  ears,  not  a  music 
native  to  the  mind.  Such  a  theory  of  language  would 
treat  it  as  a  necessary  evil  and  would  look  forward  hope 
fully  to  the  extinction  of  literature,  in  which  it  would 
recognize  no  intrinsic  value.  There  is  of  course  no  reason 
to  deprecate  the  use  of  vocables,  or  of  any  other  material 
agency,  to  expedite  affairs  ;  but  a  fine  art  of  speech  has  to 
supervene  upon  a  mere  code  of  signals  if  speech  is  to  add 
any  ultimate  charm  to  life.  Prose,  could  it  be  purely 
indicative,  would  be  ideally  superfluous.  A  literary 
prose  accordingly  owns  a  double  allegiance,  and  its  life 
is  amphibious.  It  must  convey  intelligence,  but  intelli 
gence  clothed  in  a  language  that  lends  the  message  an 
intrinsic  value,  and  makes  it  delightful  to  apprehend 
apart  from  its  importance  in  ultimate  theory  or  practice. 
Prose  is  in  that  measure  a  fine  art.  It  might  be  called 
poetry  that  had  become  pervasively  representative,  and 
was  altogether  faithful  to  its  rational  function. 


THERE  is  both  truth  and  illusion  in  the  saying  that  primitive 
poets  are  sublime.  Genesis  and  the  Iliad  (works  doubtless 
backed  by  a  long  tradition)  are  indeed  sublime.  Primitive 
men,  having  perhaps  developed  language  before  the  other 
arts,  used  it  with  singular  directness  to  describe  the  chief 
episodes  of  life,  which  was  all  that  life  as  yet  contained. 
They  had  frank  passions  and  saw- things  from  single  points 
of  view.  A  breath  from  that  early  world  seems  to  enlarge 
our  natures,  and  to  restore  to  language,  which  we  have 
sophisticated,  all  its  magnificence  and  truth.  But  there 
is  more,  for  language  is  spontaneous  ;  it  constitutes  an  act 
before  it  registers  an  observation.  It  gives  vent  to  emotion 
before  it  is  adjusted  to  things  external  and  reduced,  as  it 
were,  to  its  own  echo  rebounding  from  a  refractory  world. 
The  lion's  roar,  the  bellowing  of  bulls,  even  the  sea's 
cadence  has  a  great  sublimity.  Though  hardly  in  itself 


poetry,  an  animal  cry,  when  still  audible  in  human  language, 
renders  it  also  the  unanswerable,  the  ultimate  voice  of 
nature.  Nothing  can  so  pierce  the  soul  as  the  uttermost 
sigh  of  the  body.  An  intense,  inhospitable  mind,  filled 
with  a  single  idea,  in  which  all  animal,  social,  and  moral 
interests  are  fused  together,  speaks  a  language  of  incom 
parable  force.  Thus  the  Hebrew  prophets,  in  their  savage 
concentration,  poured  into  one  torrent  all  that  their  souls 
possessed  or  could  dream  of.  What  other  men  are  wont 
to  pursue  in  politics,  business,  religion,  or  art,  they 
looked  for  from  one  wave  of  national  repentance  and 
consecration.  Their  age,  swept  by  this  ideal  passion, 
possessed  at  the  same  time  a  fresh  and  homely  vocabulary  ; 
and  the  result  was  an  eloquence  so  elemental  and  combative, 
so  imaginative  and  so  bitterly  practical,  that  the  world 
has  never  heard  its  like.  Such  single-mindedness,  with 
such  heroic  simplicity  in  words  and  images,  is  hardly 
possible  in  a  late  civilization.  Cultivated  poets  are  not 
unconsciously  sublime. 

The  sublimity  of  early  utterances  should  not  be  hailed, 
however,  with  unmixed  admiration.  It  is  a  sublimity 
born  of  defect  or  at  least  of  disproportion.  The  will 
asserts  itself  magnificently ;  images,  like  thunderclouds, 
seem  to  cover  half  the  firmament  at  once.  But  such  a  will 
is  sadly  inexperienced ;  it  has  hardly  tasted  or  even 
conceived  any  possible  or  high  satisfactions.  Its  lurid 
firmament  is  poor  in  stars.  To  throw  the  whole  mind 
upon  something  is  not  so  great  a  feat  when  the  mind  has 
nothing  else  to  throw  itself  upon.  Every  animal  when 
goaded  becomes  intense  ;  and  it  is  perhaps  merely  the 
apathy  in  which  mortals  are  wont  to  live  that  keeps  them 
from  being  habitually  sublime  in  their  sentiments.  The 
sympathy  that  makes  a  sheep  hasten  after  its  fellows,  in 
vague  alarm  or  in  vague  affection  ;  the  fierce  premonitions 
that  drive  a  bull  to  the  heifer ;  the  patience  with  which 
a  hen  sits  on  her  eggs  ;  the  loyalty  which  a  dog  shows 
to  his  master — what  thoughts  may  not  all  these  instincts 
involve,  which  it  needs  only  a  medium  of  communication 
to  translate  into  poetry  ? 

Memorable  nonsense,  or  sound  with  a  certain  hypnotic 
power,  is  the  really  primitive  and  radical  form  of  poetry. 


Nor  is  such  poetry  yet  extinct :  children  still  love  and 
compose  it,  and  every  genuine  poet,  on  one  side  of  his 
genius,  reverts  to  it  from  explicit  speech.  As  all  language 
has  acquired  its  meaning,  and  did  not  have  it  in  the 
beginning,  so  the  man  who  launches  a  new  locution,  the 
poet  who  creates  a  symbol,  must  do  so  without  knowing 
what  significance  it  may  eventually  acquire,  and  con 
scious  at  best  only  of  the  emotional  background  from 
which  it  emerged.  Pure  poetry  is  pure  experiment ;  and 
it  is  not  strange  that  nine-tenths  of  it  should  be  pure 
failure.  For  it  matters  little  what  unutterable  things 
may  have  originally  gone  together  with  a  phrase  in  the 
dreamer's  mind ;  if  they  were  not  uttered  and  the  phrase 
cannot  call  them  back,  this  verbal  relic  is  none  the  richer 
for  the  high  company  it  may  once  have  kept.  Expressive 
ness  is  a  most  accidental  matter.  What  a  line  suggests 
at  one  reading,  it  may  never  suggest  again  even  to  the 
same  person.  For  this  reason,  among  others,  poets  are 
partial  to  their  own  compositions  ;  they  truly  discover 
there  depths  of  meaning  which  exist  for  nobody  else. 
Those  readers  who  appropriate  a  poet  and  make  him  their 
own  fall  into  a  similar  illusion  ;  they  attribute  to  him 
what  they  themselves  supply,  and  whatever  he  reels  out, 
lost  in  his  own  personal  reverie,  seems  to  them,  like  sortes 
biUicae,  written  to  fit  their  own  case. 

Justice  has  never  been  done  to  Plato's  remarkable 
consistency  and  boldness  in  declaring  that  poets  are 
inspired  by  a  divine  madness  and  yet,  when  they  trans 
gress  rational  bounds,  are  to  be  banished  from  an  ideal 
republic,  though  not  without  some  marks  of  platonic  regard. 
Instead  of  fillets,  a  modern  age  might  assign  them  a  coterie 
of  flattering  dames,  and  instead  of  banishment,  starvation  ; 
but  the  result  would  be  the  same  in  the  end.  A  poet 
is  inspired  because  what  occurs  in  his  brain  is  a  true 
experiment  in  creation.  His  apprehension  plays  with 
words  and  their  meanings  as  nature,  in  any  spontaneous 
variation,  plays  with  her  own  structure.  A  mechanical 
force  shifts  the  kaleidoscope ;  a  new  direction  is  given  to 
growth  or  a  new  gist  to  signification.  This  inspiration, 
moreover,  is  mad,  being  wholly  ignorant  of  its  own  issue  ; 
and  though  it  has  a  confused  fund  of  experience  and  verbal 


habit  on  which  to  draw,  it  draws  on  this  fund  blindly  and 
quite  at  random,  consciously  possessed  by  nothing  but  a 
certain  stress  and  pregnancy  and  the  pains,  as  it  were,  of 
parturition.  Finally  the  new  birth  has  to  be  inspected 
critically  by  the  public  censor  before  it  is  allowed  to  live  ; 
most  probably  it  is  too  feeble  and  defective  to  prosper 
in  the  common  air,  or  is  a  monster  that  violates  some 
primary  rule  of  civic  existence,  tormenting  itself  to  disturb 

Plato  seems  to  have  exaggerated  the  havoc  which  these 
poetic  dragons  can  work  in  the  world.  They  are  in  fact 
more  often  absurd  than  venomous,  and  no  special  legislation 
is  needed  to  abolish  them.  They  soon  die  quietly  of 
universal  neglect.  The  poetry  that  ordinarily  circulates 
among  a  people  is  poetry  of  a  secondary  and  conventional 
sort  that  propagates  established  ideas  in  trite  metaphors. 
Popular  poets  are  the  parish  priests  of  the  Muse,  retailing 
her  ancient  divinations  to  a  long  since  converted  public. 
As  a  tree  in  the  autumn  sheds  leaves  and  seeds  together, 
so  a  ripening  experience  comes  indifferently  to  various 
manifestations,  some  barren  and  without  further  function, 
others  fit  to  carry  the  parent  experience  over  into  another 
mind,  and  give  it  a  new  embodiment  there.  Expressive 
ness  in  the  former  case  is  dead,  like  that  of  a  fossil ;  in 
the  latter  it  is  living  and  efficacious,  recreating  its  original. 
The  first  is  idle  self-manifestation,  the  second  rational 

A  poet,  spokesman  of  his  full  soul  at  a  given  moment, 
cannot  consider  eventualities  or  think  of  anything  but  the 
message  he  is  sent  to  deliver,  whether  the  world  can  then 
hear  it  or  not.  God,  he  may  feel  sure,  understands  him, 
and  in  the  eternal  the  beauty  he  sees  and  loves  immortally 
justifies  his  enthusiasm.  Nevertheless,  critics  must  view 
his  momentary  ebullition  from  another  side.  They  do 
not  come  to  justify  the  poet  in  his  own  eyes  ;  he  amply 
relieves  them  of  such  a  function.  They  come  only  to 
inquire  how  significant  the  poet's  expressions  are  for 
humanity  at  large  or  for  whatever  public  he  addresses. 
They  come  to  register  the  social  or  representative  value 
of  the  poet's  soul.  His  inspiration  may  have  been  an  odd 
cerebral  rumbling,  a  perfectly  irrecoverable  and  wasted 


intuition  ;  the  exquisite  quality  it  doubtless  had  to  his 
own  sense  is  now  not  to  the  purpose.  A  work  of  art  is 
a  public  possession  ;  it  is  addressed  to  the  world.  By 
taking  on  a  material  embodiment,  a  spirit  solicits  attention 
and  claims  some  kinship  with  the  prevalent  gods.  Has 
it,  critics  should  ask,  the  affinities  needed  for  such  inter 
course  ?  Is  it  humane,  is  it  rational,  is  it  friendly  to  the 
rest  of  the  soul  ?  To  its  inherent  incommunicable  charms 
it  must  add  a  kind  of  courtesy.  If  it  wants  other  approval 
than  its  own,  it  cannot  afford  to  regard  no  other  aspiration. 


THERE  are  two  directions  in  which  it  seems  fitting  that 
rational  art  should  proceed,  on  the  basis  which  a  limited 
experience  can  give  it.  Art  may  come  to  buttress  a 
particular  form  of  life,  or  it  may  come  to  express  it.  All 
that  we  call  industry,  science,  business,  morality,  buttresses 
our  life  ;  it  informs  us  about  our  conditions  and  adjusts 
us  to  them  ;  it  equips  us  for  life  ;  it  lays  out  the  ground 
for  the  game  we  are  to  play.  This  preliminary  labour, 
however,  need  not  be  servile.  To  do  it  is  also  to  exercise 
our  faculties  ;  and  in  that  exercise  our  faculties  may  grow 
free, — as  the  imagination  of  Lucretius,  in  tracing  the 
course  of  the  atoms,  dances  and  soars  most  congenially. 
One  extension  of  art,  then,  would  be  in  the  direction 
of  doing  artistically,  joyfully,  sympathetically,  whatever 
we  have  to  do.  Literature  in  particular  (which  is  involved 
in  history,  politics,  science,  affairs)  might  be  throughout 
a  work  of  art.  It  would  become  so  not  by  being  ornate, 
but  by  being  appropriate  ;  and  the  sense  of  a  great  pre 
cision  and  justness  would  come  over  us  as  we  read  or 
wrote.  It  would  delight  us  ;  it  would  make  us  see  how 
beautiful,  how  satisfying,  is  the  art  of  being  observant, 
economical,  and  sincere.  The  philosophical  or  compre 
hensive  poet,  like  Homer,  like  Shakespeare,  would  be  a  poet 
of  business.  He  would  have  a  taste  for  the  world  in  which 
he  lived,  and  a  clean  view  of  it. 


There  remains  a  second  form  of  rational  art,  that  of 
expressing  the  ideal  towards  which  we  would  move  under 
these  improved  conditions.  For  as  we  react  we  manifest 
an  inward  principle,  expressed  in  that  reaction.  We  have 
a  nature  that  selects  its  own  direction,  and  the  direction 
in  which  practical  arts  shall  transform  the  world.  The 
outer  life  is  for  the  sake  of  the  inner ;  discipline  is  for  the 
sake  of  freedom,  and  conquest  for  the  sake  of  self-possession. 
This  inner  life  is  wonderfully  redundant ;  there  is,  namely, 
very  much  more  in  it  than  a  consciousness  of  those  acts 
by  which  the  body  adjusts  itself  to  its  surroundings.  Am 
farbigen  A  bglanz  haben  wir  das  Leben  ;  each  sense  has  its 
arbitrary  quality,  each  language  its  arbitrary  euphony 
and  prosody ;  every  game  has  its  creative  laws,  every 
soul  its  own  tender  reverberations  and  secret  dreams. 
Life  has  a  margin  of  play  which  might  grow  broader,  if 
the  sustaining  nucleus  were  more  firmly  established  in  the 
world.  To  the  art  of  working  well  a  civilized  race  would 
add  the  art  of  playing  well.  To  play  with  nature  and  make 
it  decorative,  to  play  with  the  overtones  of  life  and  make 
them  delightful,  is  a  sort  of  art.  It  is  the  ultimate,  the 
most  artistic  sort  of  art,  but  it  will  never  be  practised 
successfully  so  long  as  the  other  sort  of  art  is  in  a  backward 
state  ;  for  if  we  do  not  know  our  environment,  we  shall 
mistake  our  dreams  for  a  part  of  it,  and  so  spoil  our  science 
by  making  it  fantastic,  and  our  dreams  by  making  them 
obligatory.  The  art  and  the  religion  of  the  past,  as 
we  see  conspicuously  in  Dante,  have  fallen  into  this 
error.  To  correct  it  would  be  to  establish  a  new 
religion  and  a  new  art,  based  on  moral  liberty  and  on 
moral  courage. 

Who  shall  be  the  poet  of  this  double  insight  ?  He  has 
never  existed,  but  he  is  needed  nevertheless.  It  is  time 
some  genius  should  appear  to  reconstitute  the  shattered 
picture  of  the  world.  He  should  live  in  the  continual 
presence  of  all  experience,  and  respect  it ;  he  should  at  the 
same  time  understand  nature,  the  ground  of  that  experience ; 
and  he  should  also  have  a  delicate  sense  for  the  ideal 
echoes  of  his  own  passions,  and  for  all  the  colours  of  his 
possible  happiness.  All  that  can  inspire  a  poet  is  contained 
in  this  task,  and  nothing  less  than  this  task  would  exhaust 


a  poet's  inspiration.  We  may  hail  this  needed  genius 
from  afar.  Like  the  poets  in  Dante's  limbo,  when  Virgil 
returns  among  them,  we  may  salute  him,  saying  :  Quorate 
I'  altissimo  poeta.  Honour  the  most  high  poet,  honour  the 
highest  possible  poet.  But  this  supreme  poet  is  in  limbo 






OUR  ignorance  of  the  life  of  a  great  writer  is  not,  I  think, 
much  to  be  regretted.  His  work  preserves  that  part 
of  him  which  he  himself  would  have  wished  to  preserve. 
Perfect  conviction  ignores  itself,  proclaiming  the  public 
truth.  To  reach  this  no  doubt  requires  a  peculiar  genius 
which  is  called  intelligence ;  for  intelligence  is  quickness 
in  seeing  things  as  they  are.  But  where  intelligence  is 
attained,  the  rest  of  a  man,  like  the  scaffolding  to  a  finished 
building,  becomes  irrelevant.  We  do  not  wish  it  to  inter 
cept  our  view  of  the  solid  structure,  which  alone  was 
intended  by  the  artist — if  he  was  building  for  others, 
and  was  not  a  coxcomb.  It  is  his  intellectual  vision  that 
the  naturalist  in  particular  wishes  to  hand  down  to  posterity, 
not  the  shabby  incidents  that  preceded  that  vision  in  his 
own  person.  These  incidents,  even  if  they  were  by  chance 
interesting,  could  not  be  repeated  in  us ;  but  the  vision 
into  which  the  thinker  poured  his  faculties,  and  to  which 
he  devoted  his  vigils,  is  communicable  to  us  also,  and  may 
become  a  part  of  ourselves. 


WHEN  chaos  has  penetrated  into  the  moral  being  of  nations 
they  can  hardly  be  expected  to  produce  great  men.  A 
great  man  need  not  be  virtuous  nor  his  opinions  right, 
but  he  must  have  a  firm  mind,  a  distinctive,  luminous 
character ;  if  he  is  to  dominate  things  something  must 



be  dominant  in  him.  We  feel  him  to  be  great  in  that  he 
clarifies  and  brings  to  expression  something  which  was 
potential  in  the  rest  of  us  but  which  with  our  burden  of 
flesh  and  circumstance  we  were  too  torpid  to  utter.  The 
great  man  is  a  spontaneous  variation  in  humanity ;  but 
not  in  any  direction.  A  spontaneous  variation  might 
be  a  mere  madness  or  mutilation  or  monstrosity;  in 
finding  the  variation  admirable  we  evidently  invoke 
some  principle  of  order  to  which  it  conforms.  Perhaps 
it  makes  explicit  what  was  preformed  in  us  also ;  as 
when  a  poet  finds  the  absolutely  right  phrase  for  a  feeling, 
or  when  nature  suddenly  astonishes  us  with  a  form  of 
absolute  beauty.  Or  perhaps  it  makes  an  unprecedented 
harmony  out  of  things  existing  before,  but  jangled  and 
detached.  The  first  man  was  a  great  man  for  this  latter 
reason ;  having  been  an  ape  perplexed  and  corrupted 
by  his  multiplying  instincts,  he  suddenly  found  a  new 
way  of  being  decent,  by  harnessing  all  those  instincts 
together,  through  memory  and  imagination,  and  giving 
each  in  turn  a  measure  of  its  due  ;  which  is  what  we  call 
being  rational.  It  is  a  new  road  to  happiness,  if  you 
have  strength  enough  to  castigate  a  little  the  various 
impulses  that  sway  you  in  turn.  Why  then  is  the  martyr, 
who  sacrifices  everything  to  one  attraction,  distinguished 
from  the  criminal  or  the  fool,  who  do  the  same  thing  ? 
Evidently  because  the  spirit  that  in  the  martyr  destroys 
the  body  is  the  very  spirit  which  the  body  is  stifling  in 
the  rest  of  us  ;  and  although  his  private  inspiration  may 
be  irrational,  the  tendency  of  it  is  not,  but  reduces  the 
public  conscience  to  act  before  any  one  else  has  had  the 
courage  to  do  so.  Greatness  is  spontaneous  ;  simplicity, 
trust  in  some  one  clear  instinct,  are  essential  to  it ;  but 
the  spontaneous  variation  must  be  in  the  direction  of  some 
possible  sort  of  order ;  it  must  exclude  and  leave  behind 
what  is  incapable  of  being  moralized.  How,  then,  should 
there  be  any  great  heroes,  saints,  artists,  philosophers, 
or  legislators  in  an  age  when  nobody  trusts  himself,  or  feels 
any  confidence  in  reason,  in  an  age  when  the  word  dogmatic 
is  a  term  of  reproach  ?  Greatness  has  character  and 
severity,  it  is  deep  and  sane,  it  is  distinct  and  perfect. 
For  this  reason  there  is  none  of  it  to-day. 


There  is  indeed  another  kind  of  greatness,  or  rather 
largeness  of  mind,  which  consists  in  being  a  synthesis  of 
humanity  in  its  current  phases,  even  if  without  prophetic 
emphasis  or  direction  :  the  breadth  of  a  Goethe,  rather 
than  the  fineness  of  a  Shelley  or  a  Leopardi.  But  such 
largeness  of  mind,  not  to  be  vulgar,  must  be  impartial, 
comprehensive,  Olympian ;  it  would  not  be  greatness  if 
its  miscellany  were  not  dominated  by  a  clear  genius  and 
if  before  the  confusion  of  things  the  poet  or  philosopher 
were  not  himself  delighted,  exalted,  and  by  no  means 
confused.  Nor  does  this  presume  omniscience  on  his 
part.  It  is  not  necessary  to  fathom  the  ground  or  the 
structure  of  everything  in  order  to  know  what  to  make 
of  it.  Stones  do  not  disconcert  a  builder  because  he  may 
not  happen  to  know  what  they  are  chemically ;  and  so 
the  unsolved  problems  of  life  and  nature,  and  the  Babel  of 
society,  need  not  disturb  the  genial  observer,  though  he 
may  be  incapable  of  unravelling  them.  He  may  set  these 
dark  spots  down  in  their  places,  like  so  many  caves  or 
wells  in  a  landscape,  without  feeling  bound  to  scrutinize 
their  depths  simply  because  their  depths  are  obscure. 
Unexplored  they  may  have  a  sort  of  lustre,  explored  they 
might  merely  make  him  blind,  and  it  may  be  a  sufficient 
understanding  of  them  to  know  that  they  are  not  worth 
investigating.  In  this  way  the  most  chaotic  age  and  the 
most  motley  horrors  might  be  mirrored  limpidly  in  a 
great  mind,  as  the  Renaissance  was  mirrored  in  the  works 
of  Raphael  and  Shakespeare ;  but  the  master's  eye 
itself  must  be  single,  his  style  unmistakable,  his  visionary 
interest  in  what  he  depicts  frank  and  supreme.  Hence 
this  comprehensive  sort  of  greatness  too  is  impossible 
in  an  age  when  moral  confusion  is  pervasive,  when 
characters  are  complex,  undecided,  troubled  by  the  mere 
existence  of  what  is  not  congenial  to  them,  eager  to  be 
not  themselves ;  when,  in  a  word,  thought  is  weak  and 
the  flux  of  things  overwhelms  it.  The  mind  has  forgotten 
its  proper  function,  which  is  to  crown  life  by  quickening 
it  into  intelligence,  and  thinks  if  it  could  only  prove  that 
it  accelerated  life,  that  might  perhaps  justify  its  existence  ; 
like  a  philosopher  at  sea  who,  to  make  himself  useful, 
should  blow  into  the  sail. 


A  great  imaginative  apathy  has  fallen  on  the  mind. 
One-half  the  learned  world  is  amused  in  tinkering  obsolete 
armour,  as  Don  Quixote  did  his  helmet ;  deputing  it, 
after  a  series  of  catastrophes,  to  be  at  last  sound  and 
invulnerable.  The  other  half,  the  naturalists  who  have 
studied  psychology  and  evolution,  look  at  life  from  the 
outside,  and  the  processes  of  nature  make  them  forget 
her  uses.  Bacon  indeed  had  prized  science  for  adding 
to  the  comforts  of  life,  a  function  still  commemorated  by 
positivists  in  their  eloquent  moments.  Habitually,  how 
ever,  when  they  utter  the  word  progress  it  is,  in  their 
mouths,  a  synonym  for  inevitable  change,  or  at  best  for 
change  in  that  direction  which  they  conceive  to  be  on 
the  whole  predominant.  If  they  combine  with  physical 
speculation  some  elements  of  morals,  these  are  usually 
purely  formal,  to  the  effect  that  happiness  is  to  be  pursued 
(probably,  alas  !  because  to  do  so  is  a  psychological  law)  ; 
but  what  happiness  consists  in  we  gather  only  from  casual 
observations  or  by  putting  together  their  national  pre 
judices  and  party  saws. 

The  truth  is  that  even  this  radical  school,  emancipated 
as  it  thinks  itself,  is  suffering  from  the  after-effects  of 
supernaturalism.  Like  children  escaped  from  school, 
they  find  their  whole  happiness  in  freedom.  They  are 
proud  of  how  much  they  have  rejected,  as  if  a  great  wit 
were  required  to  do  so  ;  but  they  do  not  know  what  they 
want.  If  you  astonish  them  by  demanding  what  is  their 
positive  ideal,  further  than  that  there  should  be  a  great 
many  people  and  that  they  should  be  all  alike,  they  will 
say  at  first  that  what  ought  to  be  is  obvious,  and  later 
they  will  submit  the  matter  to  a  majority  vote.  They  have 
discarded  the  machinery  in  which  their  ancestors  embodied 
the  ideal ;  they  have  not  perceived  that  those  symbols 
stood  for  the  life  of  reason  and  gave  fantastic  and  em 
barrassed  expression  to  what,  in  itself,  is  pure  humanity  ; 
and  they  have  thus  remained  entangled  in  the  colossal 
error  that  ideals  are  something  adventitious  and  unmean 
ing,  not  having  a  soil  in  mortal  life  nor  a  possible  fulfil 
ment  there. 



TRUSTFUL  faith  in  evolution  and  a  longing  for  intense 
life  are  characteristic  of  contemporary  sentiment,1  but 
they  do  not  appear  to  be  consistent  with  that  contempt 
for  the  intellect  which  is  no  less  characteristic  of  it.  Human 
intelligence  is  certainly  a  product,  and  a  late  and  highly 
organized  product,  of  evolution ;  it  ought  apparently 
to  be  as  much  admired  as  the  eyes  of  molluscs  or  the 
antennae  of  ants.  And  if  life  is  better  the  more  intense 
and  concentrated  it  is,  intelligence  would  seem  to  be  the 
best  form  of  life.  But  the  degree  of  intelligence  which 
this  age  possesses  makes  it  so  very  uncomfortable  that, 
in  this  instance,  it  asks  for  something  less  vital,  and  sighs 
for  what  evolution  has  left  behind.  In  the  presence  of 
such  cruelly  distinct  things  as  astronomy  or  such  cruelly 
confused  things  as  theology  it  feels  la  nostalgie  de  la  boue. 
Finding  their  intelligence  enslaved,  our  contemporaries 
suppose  that  intelligence  is  essentially  servile ;  instead 
of  freeing  it,  they  try  to  elude  it.  Their  philosophy  is  an 
effort  to  realize  this  revulsion,  to  disintegrate  intelligence 
and  stimulate  sympathetic  experience.  Its  charm  lies 
in  the  relief  which  it  brings  to  a  stale  imagination,  an 
imagination  from  which  religion  has  vanished  and  which 
is  kept  stretched  on  the  machinery  of  business  and  society, 
or  on  small  half -borrowed  passions  which  they  clothe  in 
a  mean  rhetoric  and  dot  with  vulgar  pleasures.  Not  free 
enough  themselves  morally,  but  bound  to  the  world  partly 
by  piety  and  partly  by  industrialism,  they  cannot  think 
of  rising  to  a  detached  contemplation  of  earthly  things, 
and  of  life  itself  and  evolution  ;  they  revert  rather  to 
sensibility,  and  seek  some  by-path  of  instinct  or  dramatic 
sympathy  in  which  to  wander.  Having  no  stomach  for 
the  ultimate,  they  burrow  downwards  towards  the  primi 
tive.  But  the  longing  to  be  primitive  is  a  disease  of  culture  ; 
it  is  archaism  in  morals.  To  be  so  preoccupied  with  vitality 
is  a  symptom  of  anaemia. 

1  Written  in  1912. 


When  life  was  really  vigorous  and  young,  in  Homeric 
times  for  instance,  no  one  seemed  to  fear  that  it  might  be 
squeezed  out  of  existence  either  by  the  incubus  of  matter 
or  by  the  petrifying  blight  of  intelligence.  Life  was  like 
the  light  of  day,  something  to  use,  or  to  waste,  or  to  enjoy. 
It  was  not  a  thing  to  worship  ;  and  often  the  chief  luxury 
of  living  consisted  in  dealing  death  about  vigorously. 
Life  indeed  was  loved,  and  the  beauty  and  pathos  of  it 
were  felt  exquisitely  ;  but  its  beauty  and  pathos  lay  in 
the  divineness  of  its  model  and  in  its  own  fragility.  No 
one  paid  it  the  equivocal  compliment  of  thinking  it  a 
substance  or  a  material  force.  Nobility  was  not  then 
impossible  in  sentiment,  because  there  were  ideals  in  life 
higher  and  more  indestructible  than  life  itself,  which  life 
might  illustrate  and  to  which  it  might  fitly  be  sacrificed. 
Nothing  can  be  meaner  than  the  anxiety  to  live  on,  to 
live  on  anyhow  and  in  any  shape  ;  a  spirit  with  any 
honour  is  not  willing  to  live  except  in  its  own  way,  and 
a  spirit  with  any  wisdom  is  not  over-eager  to  live  at  all. 
In  those  days  men  recognized  immortal  gods  and  resigned 
\  themselves  to  being  mortal.  Yet  those  were  the  truly 
vital  and  instinctive  days  of  the  human  spirit.  Only 
when  vitality  is  low  do  people  find  material  things  oppres 
sive  and  ideal  things  unsubstantial.  Now  there  is  more 
motion  than  life,  and  more  haste  than  force ;  we  are 
driven  to  distraction  by  the  ticking  of  the  tiresome  clocks, 
material  and  social,  by  which  we  are  obliged  to  regulate 
our  existence.  We  need  ministering  angels  to  fly  to  us 
from  somewhere,  even  if  it  be  from  the  depths  of  proto 
plasm.  We  must  bathe  in  the  currents  of  some  non- 
human  vital  flood,  like  consumptives  in  their  last  extremity 
who  must  bask  in  the  sunshine  and  breathe  the  mountain 
air ;  and  our  disease  is  not  without  its  sophistry  to  con 
vince  us  that  we  were  never  so  well  before,  or  so  mightily 
conscious  of  being  alive. 

Without  great  men  and  without  clear  convictions  this 
age  is  nevertheless  very  active  intellectually  ;  it  is  studious, 
empirical,  inventive,  sympathetic.  Its  wisdom  consists 
in  a  certain  contrite  openness  of  mind  ;  it  flounders,  but 
at  least  in  floundering  it  has  gained  a  sense  of  possible 
depths  in  all  directions.  Under  these  circumstances, 


some  triviality  and  great  confusion  in  its  positive  achieve 
ments  are  not  unpromising  things,  nor  even  unamiable. 
These  are  the  Wander jahre  of  faith  ;  it  looks  smilingly 
at  every  new  face,  which  might  perhaps  be  that  of  a  pre 
destined  friend  ;  it  chases  after  any  engaging  stranger ; 
it  even  turns  up  again  from  time  to  time  at  home,  full 
of  a  new  tenderness  for  all  it  had  abandoned  there.  But 
to  settle  down  would  be  impossible  now.  The  intellect, 
the  judgment  are  in  abeyance.  Life  is  running  turbid 
and  full  ;  and  it  is  no  marvel  that  reason,  after  vainly 
supposing  that  it  ruled  the  world,  should  abdicate  as 
gracefully  as  possible,  when  the  world  is  so  obviously 
the  sport  of  cruder  powers — vested  interests,  tribal  passions, 
stock  sentiments,  and  chance  majorities.  Having  no 
responsibility  laid  upon  it,  reason  has  become  irresponsible. 
Many  critics  and  philosophers  seem  to  conceive  that 
thinking  aloud  is  itself  literature.  Sometimes  reason 
tries  to  lend  some  moral  authority  to  its  present  masters, 
by  proving  how  superior  they  are  to  itself  ;  it  worships 
evolution,  instinct,  novelty,  action.  At  other  times  it 
retires  into  the  freehold  of  those  temperaments  whom 
this  world  has  ostracized,  the  region  of  the  non-existent, 
and  comforts  itself  with  its  indubitable  conquests  there. 
Indeed,  what  happens  to  exist  is  too  alien  and  accidental 
to  absorb  all  the  play  of  a  free  mind,  whose  function,  after 
it  has  come  to  clearness  and  made  its  peace  with  things, 
is  to  touch  them  with  its  own  moral  and  intellectual  light, 
and  to  exist  for  its  own  sake. 


LANGUAGE,  with  the  logic  embedded  in  it,  is  a  repository 
of  terms  fixed  by  identifying  successive  appearances,  as 
the  external  world  is  a  repository  of  objects  conceived 
by  superposing  appearances  that  exist  together.  Being 
formed  on  different  principles  these  two  orders  of  con 
ception — the  logical  and  the  physical — do  not  coincide, 
and  the  attempt  to  fuse  them  into  one  system  of  demon- 


strable  reality  or  moral  physics  is  doomed  to  failure  by 
the  very  nature  of  the  terms  compared.  When  the 
Eleatics  proved  the  impossibility — i.e.,  the  inexpressibility 
— of  motion,  or  when  Kant  and  his  followers  proved  the 
imaginary  character  of  all  objects  of  experience  and  of  all 
natural  knowledge,  their  task  was  made  easy  by  the  native 
diversity  between  the  concretions  in  existence  which  were 
the  object  of  their  thought  and  the  concretions  in  discourse 
which  were  its  measure.  The  two  do  not  fit ;  and  intrenched 
as  these  philosophers  were  in  the  forms  of  logic  they  com 
pelled  themselves  to  reject  as  unthinkable  everything  not 
fully  expressible  in  those  particular  forms.  Thus  they  took 
their  revenge  upon  the  vulgar  who,  being  busy  chiefly 
with  material  things  and  dwelling  in  an  atmosphere  of 
sensuous  images,  call  unreal  and  abstract  every  product 
of  logical  construction  or  reflective  analysis.  These 
logical  products,  however,  are  not  really  abstract,  but, 
as  we  have  said,  concretions  arrived  at  by  a  different 
method  than  that  which  results  in  material  conceptions. 
Whereas  the  conception  of  a  thing  is  a  local  conglomerate 
of  several  simultaneous  appearances,  logical  entity  is 
recognized  by  a  fusion  in  memory  of  similar  appearances 
temporally  distinct. 

Thus  the  many  armed  with  prejudice  and  the  few  armed 
with  logic  fight  an  eternal  battle,  the  logician  charging 
the  physical  world  with  unintelligibility  and  the  man  of 
common-sense  charging  the  logical  world  with  abstractness 
and  unreality.  The  former  view  is  the  more  profound, 
since  association  by  similarity  is  the  more  elementary  and 
gives  constancy  to  meanings  ;  while  the  latter  view  is 
the  more  practical,  since  association  by  contiguity  alone 
informs  the  mind  about  the  mechanical  sequence  of  its 
own  experience.  Neither  principle  can  be  dispensed  with, 
and  each  errs  only  in  denouncing  the  other  and  wishing  to 
be  omnivorous,  as  if  on  the  one  hand  logic  could  make 
anybody  understand  the  history  of  events  and  the  con 
junction  of  objects,  or  on  the  other  hand  as  if  cognitive 
and  moral  processes  could  have  any  other  terms  than 
constant  and  ideal  natures.  The  namable  essence  of 
things  or  the  standard  of  values  must  always  be  an 
ideal  figment ;  existence  must  always  be  an  empirical 


fact.     The   former   remains  always  remote   from  natural 
existence  and  the  latter  irreducible  to  a  logical  principle. 

Reliance  on  external  perception,  constant  appeals  to 
concrete  fact  and  physical  sanctions,  have  always  led  the 
mass  of  reasonable  men  to  magnify  concretions  in  existence 
and  belittle  concretions  in  discourse.  They  are  too  clever, 
as  they  feel,  to  mistake  words  for  things.  The  most 
authoritative  thinker  on  this  subject,  because  the  most 
mature,  Aristotle  himself,  taught  that  things  had  reality, 
individuality,  independence,  and  were  the  outer  cause  of 
perception,  while  general  ideas,  products  of  association  by 
similarity,  existed  only  in  the  mind.  The  public,  pleased 
at  its  ability  to  understand  this  doctrine  and  overlooking 
the  more  incisive  part  of  the  philosopher's  teaching,  could 
go  home  comforted  and  believing  that  material  things  were 
primary  and  perfect  entities,  while  ideas  were  only  abstrac 
tions,  effects  those  realities  produced  on  our  incapable 
minds.  Aristotle,  however,  had  a  juster  view  of  general 
concepts  and  made  in  the  end  the  whole  material  universe 
gravitate  around  them  and  feel  their  influence,  though  in 
a  metaphysical  and  magic  fashion  to  which  a  more  advanced 
natural  science  need  no  longer  appeal.  While  in  the  shock 
of  life  man  was  always  coming  upon  the  accidental,  in  the 
quiet  of  reflection  he  could  not  but  recast  everything  in 
ideal  moulds  and  retain  nothing  but  eternal  natures  and 
intelligible  relations.  Aristotle  conceived  that  while  the 
origin  of  knowledge  lay  in  the  impact  of  matter  upon 
sense  its  goal  was  the  comprehension  of  essences,  and 
that  while  man  was  involved  by  his  animal  nature  in 
the  accidents  of  experience  he  was  also  by  virtue  of  his 
rationality  a  participator  in  eternal  truth.  A  substantial 
justice  was  thus  done  both  to  the  conditions  and  to  the 
functions  of  human  life,  although,  for  want  of  a  natural 
history  inspired  by  mechanical  ideas,  this  double  allegiance 
remained  somewhat  baffling  and  incomprehensible  in  its 
basis.  Aristotle,  being  a  true  philosopher  and  pupil  of 
experience,  preferred  incoherence  to  partiality. 



THE  English  psychologists  who  first  disintegrated  the  idea 
of  substance  did  not  study  the  question  wholly  for  its 
own  sake  or  in  the  spirit  of  a  science  that  aims  at  nothing 
but  a  historical  analysis  of  mind.  They  had  a  more  or 
less  malicious  purpose  behind  their  psychology.  They 
thought  that  if  they  could  once  show  how  metaphysical 
ideas  are  made  they  would  discredit  those  ideas  and  banish 
them  for  ever  from  the  world.  If  they  retained  confidence 
in  any  notion — as  Hobbes  in  body,  Locke  in  matter  and  in 
God,  Berkeley  in  spirits,  and  Kant,  the  inheritor  of  this 
malicious  psychology,  in  the  thing-in-itself  and  in  heaven — 
it  was  merely  by  inadvertence  or  want  of  courage.  The 
principle  of  their  reasoning,  where  they  chose  to  apply  it, 
was  always  this,  that  ideas  whose  materials  could  all  be 
accounted  for  in  consciousness  and  referred  to  sense  or 
to  the  operations  of  mind  were  thereby  exhausted  and 
deprived  of  further  validity.  Only  the  unaccountable,  or 
rather  the  uncriticized,  could  be  true.  Consequently  the 
advance  of  psychology  meant,  in  this  school,  the  retreat 
of  reason  ;  for  as  one  notion  after  another  was  clarified 
and  reduced  to  its  elements  it  was  ipso  facto  deprived  of  its 
function.  It  became  impossible  to  be  at  once  quite  serious 
and  quite  intelligent ;  for  to  use  reason  was  to  indulge  in 
subjective  fiction,  while  conscientiously  to  abstain  from 
using  it  was  to  sink  back  upon  inarticulate  and  brutish 

In  Hume  this  sophistication  was  frankly  avowed. 
Philosophy  discredited  itself ;  but  a  man  of  parts,  who 
loved  intellectual  games  even  better  than  backgammon, 
might  take  a  hand  with  the  wits  and  historians  of  his  day, 
until  the  clock  struck  twelve  and  the  party  was  over. 
Even  in  Kant,  though  the  mood  was  more  cramped  and 
earnest,  the  mystical  sophistication  was  quite  the  same. 
Kant,  too,  imagined  that  the  bottom  had  been  knocked 
out  of  the  world.  Since  space  and  time  could  not  repel 
the  accusation  of  being  the  necessary  forms  of  perception, 


space  and  time  were  not  to  be  much  thought  of ;  and 
when  the  sad  truth  was  disclosed  that  causality  and  the 
categories  were  instruments  by  which  the  idea  of  nature 
had  to  be  constructed,  if  such  an  idea  was  to  exist  at  all, 
then  nature  and  causality  shrivelled  up  and  were  dishonoured 
together ;  so  that,  the  soul's  occupation  being  gone,  she 
must  needs  appeal  to  some  mysterious  oracle,  some  abstract 
and  irrelevant  omen  within  the  breast,  and  muster  up  all 
the  stern  courage  of  an  accepted  despair  to  carry  her 
through  this  world  of  mathematical  illusion  into  some 
green  and  infantile  paradise  beyond. 


IN  the  melodramatic  fashion  so  common  in  what  is  called 
philosophy  we  may  delight  ourselves  with  such  flashes 
of  lightning  as  this  :  esse  est  percipi.  The  truth  of  this 
paradox  lies  in  the  fact  that  through  perception  alone  can 
we  get  at  being — a  modest  and  familiar  notion  which 
makes,  as  Plato's  Theaetetus  shows,  not  a  bad  point  of 
departure  for  a  serious  theory  of  knowledge.  The 
sophistical  intent  of  it,  however,  is  to  deny  our  right  to 
make  a  distinction  which  in  fact  we  do  make  and  which  the 
speaker  himself  is  making  as  he  utters  the  phrase  ;  for  he 
would  not  be  so  proud  of  himself  if  he  thought  he  was 
thundering  a  tautology.  If  a  thing  were  never  perceived, 
or  inferred  from  perception,  we  should  indeed  never  know 
that  it  existed  ;  but  after  we  become  aware  that  we  have 
perceived  or  inferred  it,  it  may  remain  conducive  to 
comprehension  and  practical  competence  to  continue  to 
regard  it  as  existing  independently  of  our  perception ; 
and  our  ability  to  make  this  supposition  is  registered  in 
the  difference  between  the  two  words  to  be  and  to  be  perceived 
— words  which  are  by  no  means  synonymous  but  designate 
two  very  different  relations  of  things  to  thought.  Such 
idealism  at  one  fell  swoop,  through  a  collapse  of  assertive 
intellect  with  a  withdrawal  of  reason  into  self-conscious 
ness,  has  the  puzzling  character  of  any  clever  pun,  that 


suspends  the  fancy  between  two  incompatible  but  irre 
sistible  meanings.  The  art  of  such  sophistry  is  to  choose 
for  an  axiom  some  ambiguous  phrase  which  taken  in  one 
sense  is  a  truism  and  taken  in  another  is  an  absurdity  ; 
and  then,  by  showing  the  truth  of  that  truism,  to  give  out 
that  the  absurdity  has  also  been  proved.  It  is  a  truism 
to  say  that  I  am  the  only  seat  or  locus  of  my  ideas,  and 
that  whatever  I  know  is  known  by  me  ;  it  is  an  absurdity 
to  say  that  I  am  the  only  object  of  my  thought  and 

To  confuse  the  instrument  with  its  function  and  the 
operation  with  its  meaning  has  been  a  persistent  foible  in 
modern  philosophy.  It  could  thus  come  about  that  the 
function  of  intelligence  should  be  altogether  misconceived 
and  in  consequence  denied,  when  it  was  discovered  that 
figments  of  reason  could  never  become  elements  of  sense 
but  must  always  remain,  as  of  course  they  should,  ideal 
and  regulative  objects,  and  therefore  objects  to  which  a 
practical  and  energetic  intellect  will  tend  to  give  the  name 
of  realities.  Matter  is  a  reality  to  the  practical  intellect 
because  it  is  a  necessary  and  ideal  term  in  the  mastery 
of  experience  ;  while  negligible  sensations,  like  dreams, 
are  called  illusions  by  the  same  authority  because,  though 
actual  enough  while  they  last,  they  have  no  sustained 
function  and  no  right  to  practical  dominion. 


KANT  is  remarkable  among  sincere  philosophers  for  the 
pathetic  separation  which  existed  between  his  personal 
beliefs  and  his  official  discoveries.  His  personal  beliefs 
were  mild  and  half  orthodox  and  hardly  differed  from 
those  of  Leibniz  ;  but  officially  he  was  entangled  in  the 
subjective  criticism  of  knowledge,  and  found  that  the 
process  of  knowing  was  so  complicated,  and  so  exquisitely 
contrived  to  make  knowledge  impossible,  that  while  the 
facts  of  the  universe  were  there,  and  we  might  have,  like 
Leibniz,  a  shrewd  and  exact  notion  of  what  they  were, 

KANT  171 

officially  we  had  no  right  to  call  them  facts  or  to  allege 
that  we  knew  them.  As  there  was  much  in  Kant's  personal 
belief  which  this  critical  method  of  his  could  not  sanction, 
so  there  were  implications  and  consequences  latent  in  his 
critical  method  which  he  never  absorbed,  being  an  old  man 
when  he  adopted  it.  One  of  these  latent  implications  was 

The  fact  that  each  spirit  was  confined  to  its  own  per 
ceptions  condemned  it  to  an  initial  subjectivity  and 
agnosticism.  What  things  might  exist  besides  his  ideas 
he  could  never  know.  That  such  things  existed  was  not 
doubted ;  Kant  never  accepted  that  amazing  principle 
of  dogmatic  egotism  that  nothing  is  able  to  exist  unless 
I  am  able  to  know  it.  On  the  contrary  he  assumed  that 
human  perceptions,  with  the  moral  postulates  which  he 
added  to  them,  were  symbols  of  a  real  world  of  forces 
or  spirits  existing  beyond.  This  assumption  reduced  our 
initial  idiotism  to  a  constitutional  taint  of  our  animal 
minds,  not  unlike  original  sin,  and  excluded  that  romantic 
pride  and  self-sufficiency  in  which  a  full-fledged  transcen 
dentalism  always  abounds. 

To  this  contrite  attitude  of  Kant's  agnosticism  his 
personal  character  and  ethics  corresponded.  A  wizened 
little  old  bachelor,  a  sedentary  provincial  scribe,  scrupulous 
and  punctual,  a  courteous  moralist  who  would  have  us 
treat  humanity  in  the  person  of  another  as  an  end  and 
never  merely  as  a  means,  a  pacifist  and  humanitarian  who 
so  revered  the  moral  sense  according  to  Shaftesbury  and 
Adam  Smith  that,  after  having  abolished  earth  and  heaven, 
he  was  entirely  comforted  by  the  sublime  truth  that  never 
theless  it  remained  wrong  to  tell  a  lie — such  a  figure  has 
nothing  in  it  of  the  officious  egotist  or  the  superman. 
Yet  his  very  love  of  exactitude  and  his  scruples  about 
knowledge,  misled  by  the  psychological  fallacy  that 
nothing  can  be  an  object  of  knowledge  except  some  idea 
in  the  mind,  led  him  in  the  end  to  subjectivism  ;  while 
his  rigid  conscience,  left  standing  in  that  unnatural  void, 
led  him  to  attribute  absoluteness  to  what  he  called  the 
categorical  imperative.  But  this  void  outside  and  this 
absolute  oracle  within  are  germs  of  egotism,  and  germs  of 
the  most  virulent  species. 


The  categorical  imperative,  or  unmistakable  voice  of 
conscience,  was  originally  something  external  enough — 
too  external,  indeed,  to  impose  by  itself  a  moral  obligation. 
The  thunders  of  Sinai  and  the  voice  from  the  whirlwind  in 
Job  fetched  their  authority  from  the  suggestion  of  power  ; 
there  spoke  an  overwhelming  physical  force  of  which  we 
were  the  creatures  and  the  playthings,  a  voice  which  far 
from  interpreting  our  sense  of  justice,  or  our  deepest  hopes, 
threatened  to  crush  and  to  flout  them.  If  some  of  its 
commandments  were  moral,  others  were  ritual  or  even 
barbarous  ;  the  only  moral  sanction  common  to  them  all 
came  from  our  natural  prudence  and  love  of  life  ;  our 
wisdom  imposed  on  us  the  fear  of  the  Lord.  The  prophets 
and  the  gospel  did  much  to  identify  this  external  divine 
authority  with  the  human  conscience  ;  an  identification 
which  required  a  very  elaborate  theory  of  sin  and  punish 
ment  and  of  existence  in  other  worlds,  since  the  actual 
procedure  of  nature  and  history  can  never  be  squared  with 
any  ideal  of  right. 

In  Kant,  who  in  this  matter  followed  Calvin,  the 
independence  between  the  movement  of  nature,  both 
within  and  without  the  soul,  and  the  ideal  of  right  was 
exaggerated  into  an  opposition.  The  categorical  imperative 
was  always  authoritative,  but  perhaps  never  obeyed. 
While  matter  and  life  moved  on  in  their  own  unregenerate 
way,  a  principle  which  they  ought  to  follow,  overarched 
and  condemned  them,  and  constrained  them  to  condemn 
themselves.  Human  nature  was  totally  depraved  and 
incapable  of  the  least  merit,  nor  had  it  any  power  of  itself 
to  become  righteous.  Its  amiable  spontaneous  virtues, 
having  but  a  natural  motive,  were  splendid  vices.  Moral 
worth  began  only  when  the  will,  transformed  at  the  touch 
of  unmerited  grace,  surrendered  every  impulse  in  over 
whelming  reverence  for  the  divine  law. 

This  Calvinistic  doctrine  might  seem  to  rebuke  all 
actual  inclinations,  and  far  from  making  the  will  morally 
absolute,  as  egotism  would,  to  raise  over  against  it  an  alien 
authority,  what  ought  to  be  willed.  Such  was,  of  course, 
Kant's  ostensible  intention  ;  but  sublime  as  such  a  situation 
was  declared  to  be,  he  felt  rather  dissatisfied  in  its  presence. 
A  categorical  imperative  crying  in  the  wilderness,  a  duty 

KANT  173 

which  nobody  need  listen  to,  or  suffer  for  disregarding, 
seemed  rather  a  forlorn  authority.  To  save  the  face  of 
absolute  right  another  world  seemed  to  be  required,  as  in 
orthodox  Christianity,  in  which  it  might  be  duly  vindicated 
and  obeyed. 

Kant's  scepticism,  by  which  all  knowledge  of  reality 
was  denied  us,  played  conveniently  into  the  hand  of  this 
pious  requirement.  If  the  whole  natural  world,  which  we 
can  learn  something  about  by  experience,  is  merely  an 
idea  in  our  minds,  nothing  prevents  any  sort  of  real  but 
unknown  world  from  lying  about  us  unawares.  What 
could  be  more  plausible  and  opportune  than  that  the 
categorical  imperative  which  the  human  mind,  the  builder 
of  this  visible  world,  had  rejected,  should  in  that  other 
real  world  be  the  head  stone  of  the  corner  ? 

This  happy  thought,  had  it  stood  alone,  might  have 
seemed  a  little  fantastic  ;  but  it  was  only  a  laboured  means 
of  re-establishing  the  theology  of  Leibniz,  in  which  Kant 
privately  believed,  behind  the  transcendental  idealism 
which  he  had  put  forward  professorially.  The  dogmatic 
system  from  which  he  started  seemed  to  him,  as  it  stood, 
largely  indefensible  and  a  little  oppressive.  To  purify  it 
he  adopted  a  fallacious  principle  of  criticism,  namely,  that 
our  ideas  are  all  we  can  know,  a  principle  which,  if  carried 
out,  would  undermine  that  whole  system,  and  every  other. 
He,  therefore,  hastened  to  adopt  a  corrective  principle  of 
reconstruction,  no  less  fallacious,  namely,  that  conscience 
bids  us  assume  certain  things  to  be  realities  which  reason 
and  experience  know  nothing  of.  This  brought  him  round 
to  a  qualified  and  ambiguous  form  of  his  original  dogmas, 
to  the  effect  that  although  there  was  no  reason  to  think 
that  God,  heaven,  and  free-will  exist,  we  ought  to  act  as 
if  they  existed,  and  might  call  that  wilful  action  of  ours 
faith  in  their  existence. 

Thus  in  the  philosophy  of  Kant  there  was  a  stimulating 
ambiguity  in  the  issue.  He  taught  rather  less  than  he 
secretly  believed,  and  his  disciples,  seizing  the  principle 
of  his  scepticism,  but  lacking  his  conservative  instincts, 
believed  rather  less  than  he  taught  them.  Doubtless  in 
his  private  capacity  Kant  hoped,  if  he  did  not  believe, 
that  God,  free-will,  and  another  life  subsisted  in  fact,  as 


every  believer  had  hitherto  supposed  ;  it  was  only  the 
method  of  proving  their  reality  that  had  been  illegitimate. 
For  no  matter  how  strong  the  usual  arguments  might  seem 
(and  they  did  not  seem  very  strong)  they  could  convey  no 
transcendent  assurance  ;  on  the  contrary,  the  more  proofs 
you  draw  for  anything  from  reason  and  experience,  the 
better  you  prove  that  that  thing  is  a  mere  idea  in  your 
mind.  It  was  almost  prudent,  so  to  speak,  that  God, 
freedom,  and  immortality,  if  they  had  claims  to  reality, 
should  remain  without  witness  in  the  sphere  of  "  know 
ledge,"  as  inadvertently  or  ironically  it  was  still  called ; 
but  to  circumvent  this  compulsory  lack  of  evidence  God 
had  at  least  implanted  in  us  a  veridical  conscience,  which 
if  it  took  itself  seriously  (as  it  ought  to  do,  being  a  conscience) 
would  constrain  us  to  postulate  what,  though  we  could 
never  "  know  "  it,  happened  to  be  the  truth.  Such  was 
the  way  in  which  the  good  Kant  thought  to  play  hide-and- 
seek  with  reality. 

Kant  had  a  private  mysticism  in  reserve  to  raise  upon 
the  ruins  of  science  and  common-sense.  Knowledge  was 
to  be  removed  to  make  way  for  faith.  This  task  is 
ambiguous,  and  the  equivocation  involved  in  it  is  perhaps 
the  deepest  of  those  confusions  with  which  German 
metaphysics  has  since  struggled,  and  which  have  made 
it  waver  between  the  deepest  introspection  and  the 
dreariest  mythology.  To  substitute  faith  for  knowledge 
might  mean  to  teach  the  intellect  humility,  to  make  it 
aware  of  its  theoretic  and  transitive  function  as  a  faculty 
for  hypothesis  and  rational  fiction,  building  a  bridge  of 
methodical  inferences  and  ideal  unities  between  fact  and 
fact,  between  endeavour  and  satisfaction.  It  might  be  to 
remind  us,  sprinkling  over  us,  as  it  were,  the  Lenten  ashes 
of  an  intellectual  contrition,  that  our  thoughts  are  air 
even  as  our  bodies  are  dust,  momentary  vehicles  and 
products  of  an  immortal  vitality  in  God  and  in  nature, 
which  fosters  and  illumines  us  for  a  moment  before  it  lapses 
into  other  forms. 

Had  Kant  proposed  to  humble  and  concentrate  into 
a  practical  faith  the  same  natural  ideas  which  had  previously 
been  taken  for  absolute  knowledge,  his  intention  would 
have  been  innocent,  his  conclusions  wise,  and  his  analysis 

KANT  175 

free  from  venom  and  arriere-pensee.  Man,  because  of  his 
finite  and  propulsive  nature  and  because  he  is  a  pilgrim 
and  a  traveller  throughout  his  life,  is  obliged  to  have  faith  : 
the  absent,  the  hidden,  the  eventual,  is  the  necessary 
object  of  his  concern.  But  what  else  shall  his  faith  rest 
in  except  in  what  the  necessary  forms  of  his  perception 
present  to  him  and  what  the  indispensable  categories  of 
his  understanding  help  him  to  conceive  ?  What  possible 
objects  are  there  for  faith  except  objects  of  a  possible 
experience  ?  What  else  should  a  practical  and  moral 
philosophy  concern  itself  with,  except  the  governance  and 
betterment  of  the  human  world  ?  It  is  surely  by  using 
his  only  possible  forms  of  perception  and  his  inevitably 
categories  of  understanding  that  man  may  yet  learn,  as  he 
has  partly  learned  already,  to  live  and  prosper  in  the 
universe.  Had  Kant's  criticism  amounted  simply  to  such 
a  confession  of  the  tentative,  practical,  and  hypothetical 
nature  of  human  reason,  it  would  have  been  wholly 
acceptable  to  the  wise  ;  and  its  appeal  to  faith  would  have 
been  nothing  but  an  expression  of  natural  vitality  and 
courage,  just  as  its  criticism  of  knowledge  would  have 
been  nothing  but  a  better  acquaintance  with  self.  This 
faith  would  have  called  the  forces  of  impulse  and  passion 
to  reason's  support,  not  to  its  betrayal.  Faith  would  have 
meant  faith  in  the  intellect,  a  faith  naturally  expressing 
man's  practical  and  ideal  nature,  and  the  only  faith  yet 
sanctioned  by  its  fruits. 

Side  by  side  with  this  reinstatement  of  reason,  however, 
which  was  not  absent  from  Kant's  system  in  its  critical 
phase  and  in  its  application  to  science,  there  lurked  in  his 
substitution  of  faith  for  knowledge  another  and  sinister 
intention.  He  wished  to  blast  as  insignificant,  because 
"  subjective,"  the  whole  structure  of  human  intelligence, 
with  all  the  lessons  of  experience  and  all  the  triumphs  of 
human  skill,  and  to  attach  absolute  validity  instead  to 
certain  echoes  of  his  rigoristic  religious  education.  These 
notions  were  surely  just  as  subjective,  and  far  more  local 
and  transitory,  than  the  common  machinery  of  thought ; 
and  it  was  actually  proclaimed  to  be  an  evidence  of  their 
sublimity  that  they  remained  entirely  without  practical 
sanction  in  the  form  of  success  or  of  happiness.  The 


"categorical  imperative  "  was  a  shadow  of  the  ten  com 
mandments  ;  the  postulates  of  practical  reason  were  the 
minimal  tenets  of  the  most  abstract  Protestantism.  These 
fossils,  found  unaccountably  imbedded  in  the  old  man's 
mind,  he  regarded  as  the  evidences  of  an  inward  but 
supernatural  revelation. 


THE  legitimacy  of  the  transcendental  method  is  so  obvious 
that  it  is  baffling  when  unfamiliar  and  trifling  when  under 
stood.  It  is  somewhat  like  the  scientific  discovery  that 
man  is  an  animal  ;  for  in  spite  of  its  pompous  language 
and  unction,  transcendentalism,  when  not  transcended, 
is  a  stopping  short  at  the  vegetative  and  digestive  stage 
of  consciousness,  where  nothing  seems  to  be  anything 
but  a  play  of  variations  in  the  immediate.  That  is  what 
science  has  risen  from  ;  it  is  the  primordial  slime.  But 
to  stop  there  and  make  life  consist  in  hearing  the  mind 
work  is  illiberal  and  childish.  Maturity  lies  in  taking 
reason  at  its  word  and  learning  to  believe  and  to  do  what 
it  bids  us.  Inexperience,  pedantry,  and  mysticism  — 
three  obstacles  to  wisdom  —  were  not  absent  from  those 
academic  geniuses  by  whom  transcendentalism  was  first 
brought  forth.  They  became  consequently  entangled  in 
their  profundity,  and  never  were  masters  of  their  purposes 
or  of  their  tools. 

It  was  a  thing  taken  for  granted  in  ancient  and  scholastic 
philosophy  that  a  being  dwelling,  like  man,  in  the  im 
mediate,  whose  moments  are  in  flux,  needed  constructive 
reason  to  interpret  his  experience  and  paint  in  his  unstable 
consciousness  some  symbolic  picture  of  the  world.  To 
have  reverted  to  this  constructive  process  and  studied 
its  stages  is  an  interesting  achievement  ;  but  the  con 
struction  is  already  made  by  common-sense  and  science, 
and  it  was  visionary  insolence  in  the  Germans  to  propose 
to  make  that  construction  otherwise.  Retrospective  self- 
consciousness  is  dearly  bought  if  it  inhibits  the  intellect 
and  embarrasses  the  inferences  which,  in  its  spontaneous 


operation,  it  has  known  perfectly  how  to  make.  In  the 
heat  of  scientific  theorizing  or  dialectical  argument  it  is 
sometimes  salutary  to  be  reminded  that  we  are  men  think 
ing  ;  but,  after  all,  it  is  no  news.  We  know  that  life  is  a 
dream,  and  how  should  thinking  be  more  ?  Yet  the 
thinking  must  go  on,  and  the  only  vital  question  is  to 
what  practical  or  poetic  conceptions  it  is  able  to  lead  us. 

Such  visions  are  necessarily  fleeting,  because  the  human 
mind  has  long  before  settled  its  grammar,  and  discovered, 
after  much  groping  and  many  defeats,  the  general  forms 
in  which  experience  will  allow  itself  to  be  stated.  These 
general  forms  are  the  principles  of  common  sense  and 
positive  science,  no  less  imaginative  in  their  origin  than 
those  notions  which  we  now  call  transcendental,  but 
grown  prosaic,  like  the  metaphors  of  common  speech,  by 
dint  of  repetition. 

Since  the  material  world  is  an  object  for  thought,  it 
can  hardly  lie  in  the  same  plane  of  reality  with  the  thought 
to  which  it  appears.  The  spectator  on  this  side  of  the 
foot-lights  cannot  expect  to  figure  in  the  play  or  to  see 
himself  strutting  among  the  actors  on  the  boards.  He 
listens  and  is  served,  being  at  once  impotent  and  supreme. 
It  has  been  well  said  that 

Only  the  free  divine  the  laws, 
The  causeless  only  know  the  cause. 

Conversely,  what  in  such  a  transcendental  sense  is  causeless 
and  free  can  evidently  not  be  causal  or  determinant,  being 
something  altogether  universal  and  notional,  without 
inherent  determinations  or  specific  affinities.  The  objects 
figuring  in  consciousness  will  have  implications  and  will 
require  causes ;  not  so  the  consciousness  itself.  The 
Ego  to  which  all  things  appear  equally,  whatever  their 
form  or  history,  is  the  ground  of  nothing  incidental :  no 
specific  characters  or  order  found  in  the  world  can  be 
attributed  to  its  efficacy.  The  march  of  experience  is 
not  determined  by  the  mere  fact  that  experience  exists. 
Consciousness  is  not  itself  dynamic.  It  is  merely  an 
abstract  name  for  the  actuality  of  its  random  objects. 

To  subjectify  the  universe  is  not  to  improve  it,  much 
less  to  dissolve  it.  The  space  I  call  my  idea  has  all  the 



properties  of  the  space  I  called  my  environment ;  it  has 
the  same  inevitable  presence  and  the  same  perpetual 

The  whole  transcendental  philosophy,  if  made  ultimate, 
is  false,  and  nothing  but  a  private  perspective.  The  will 
is  absolute  neither  in  the  individual  nor  in  humanity. 
Nature  is  not  a  product  of  the  mind,  but  on  the  contrary 
there  is  an  external  world,  ages  prior  to  any  idea  of  it, 
which  the  mind  recognizes  and  feeds  upon.  There  is  a 
steady  human  nature  within  us,  which  our  moods  and 
passions  may  wrong  but  cannot  annul.  There  is  no 
categorical  imperative  but  only  the  operation  of  instincts 
and  interests  more  or  less  subject  to  discipline  and  mutual 
adjustment.  Our  whole  life  is  a  compromise,  an  incipient 
loose  harmony  between  the  passions  of  the  soul  and  the 
forces  of  nature,  forces  which  likewise  generate  and  protect 
the  souls  of  other  creatures,  endowing  them  with  powers 
of  expression  and  self-assertion  comparable  with  our  own, 
and  with  aims  no  less  sweet  and  worthy  in  their  own  eyes  ; 
so  that  the  quick  and  honest  mind  cannot  but  practise 
courtesy  in  the  universe,  exercising  its  will  without  vehem 
ence  or  forced  assurance,  judging  with  serenity,  and  in 
everything  discarding  the  word  absolute  as  the  most  false 
and  the  most  odious  of  words.  As  Montaigne  observes, 
"  He  who  sets  before  him,  as  in  a  picture,  this  vast  image  of 
our  mother  Nature  in  her  entire  majesty ;  who  reads  in 
her  aspect  such  universal  and  continual  variety ;  who 
discerns  himself  therein,  and  not  himself  only  but  a  whole 
kingdom,  to  be  but  a  most  delicate  dot — he  alone  esteems 
things  according  to  the  just  measure  of  their  greatness.'* 


THE  most  legitimate  constructions  of  reason  soon  become 
merely  speculative,  soon  pass,  I  mean,  beyond  the  sphere 
of  practical  application  ;  and  the  man  of  affairs,  adjusting 
himself  at  every  turn  to  the  opaque  brutality  of  fact,  loses 
his  respect  for  the  higher  reaches  of  logic  and  forgets 


that  his  recognition  of  facts  themselves  is  an  application 
of  logical  principles.  In  his  youth,  perhaps,  he  pursued 
metaphysics,  which  are  the  love-affairs  of  the  under 
standing  ;  now  he  is  wedded  to  convention  and  seeks  in 
the  passion  he  calls  business  or  in  the  habit  he  calls  duty 
some  substitute  for  natural  happiness.  He  fears  to  question 
the  value  of  his  life,  having  found  that  such  questioning 
adds  nothing  to  his  powers ;  and  he  thinks  the  mariner 
would  die  of  old  age  in  port  who  should  wait  for  reason 
to  justify  his  voyage.  Reason  is  indeed  like  the  sad 
Iphigenia  whom  her  royal  father,  the  Will,  must  sacrifice 
before  any  wind  can  fill  his  sails.  The  emanation  of  all 
things  from  the  One  involves  not  only  the  incarnation 
but  the  crucifixion  of  the  Logos.  Reason  must  be  eclipsed 
by  its  supposed  expressions,  and  can  only  shine  in  a  darkness 
which  does  not  comprehend  it.  For  reason  is  essentially 
hypothetical  and  subsidiary,  and  can  never  constitute 
what  it  expresses  in  man,  nor  what  it  recognizes  in  nature. 
If  logic  should  refuse  to  make  this  initial  self-sacrifice 
and  to  subordinate  itself  to  impulse  and  fact,  it  would 
immediately  become  irrational  and  forfeit  its  own  justifica 
tion.  For  it  exists  by  virtue  of  a  human  impulse  and  in 
answer  to  a  human  need.  To  ask  a  man,  in  the  satisfaction 
of  a  metaphysical  passion,  to  forgo  every  other  good  is 
to  render  him  fanatical  and  to  shut  his  eyes  daily  to  the 
sun  in  order  that  he  may  see  better  by  the  star-light. 
The  radical  fault  of  rationalism  is  not  any  incidental  error 
committed  in  its  deductions,  although  such  necessarily 
abound  in  every  human  system.  Its  great  original  sin 
is  its  denial  of  its  own  basis  and  its  refusal  to  occupy  its 
due  place  in  the  world,  an  ignorant  fear  of  being  invalidated 
by  its  history  and  dishonoured,  as  it  were,  if  its  ancestry 
is  hinted  at.  Only  bastards  should  fear  that  fate,  and 
criticism  would  indeed  be  fatal  to  a  bastard  philosophy, 
to  one  that  does  not  spring  from  practical  reason  and  has 
no  roots  in  life.  But  those  products  of  reason  which 
arise  by  reflection  on  fact,  and  those  spontaneous  and 
demonstrable  systems  of  ideas  which  can  be  verified  in 
experience,  and  thus  serve  to  render  the  facts  calculable 
and  articulate,  will  lose  nothing  of  their  lustre  by  dis 
covering  their  lineage.  So  the  idea  of  nature  remains 


true  after  psychology  has  analysed  its  origin,  and  not  only 
true,  but  beautiful  and  beneficent.  For  unlike  many 
negligible  products  of  speculative  fancy  it  is  woven  out  of 
recurrent  perceptions  into  a  hypothetical  cause  from  which 
further  perceptions  can  be  deducted  as  they  are  actually 
experienced.  Such  a  mechanism  once  discovered  confirms 
itself  at  every  breath  we  draw,  and  surrounds  every  object 
in  history  and  nature  with  infinite  and  true  suggestions, 
making  it  doubly  interesting,  fruitful,  and  potent  over  the 

If  the  idealist  fears  and  deprecates  any  theory  of  his 
own  origin  and  function,  he  is  only  obeying  the  instinct 
of  self-preservation ;  for  he  knows  very  well  that  his 
past  will  not  bear  examination.  He  is  heir  to  every 
superstition  and  by  profession  an  apologist ;  his  deepest 
vocation  is  to  rescue,  by  some  logical  tour  de  force,  what 
spontaneously  he  himself  would  have  taken  for  a  conse 
crated  error.  Zeal,  here  as  in  so  many  cases,  becomes 
the  cover  and  evidence  of  a  bad  conscience.  Bigotry  and 
craft,  with  a  rhetorical  vilification  of  enemies,  then  come 
to  reinforce  in  the  prophet  that  natural  limitation  of  his 
interests  which  turns  his  face  away  from  history  and  criti 
cism  ;  until  his  system,  in  its  monstrous  unreality  and 
disingenuousness,  becomes  intolerable,  and  provokes  a 
general  revolt  in  which  too  often  the  truth  of  it  is  buried 
with  the  error  in  a  common  oblivion. 


INJUSTICE  in  this  world  is  not  something  comparative; 
the  wrong  is  deep,  clear,  and  absolute  in  each  private  fate. 
A  bruised  child  wailing  in  the  street,  his  small  world  for 
the  moment  utterly  black  and  cruel  before  him,  does  not 
fetch  his  unhappiness  from  sophisticated  comparisons  or 
irrational  envy  ;  nor  can  any  compensations  and  celestial 
harmonies  supervening  later  ever  expunge  or  justify  that 
moment's  bitterness.  The  pain  may  be  whistled  away 
and  forgotten  ;  the  mind  may  be  rendered  by  it  only  a 


little  harder,  a  little  coarser,  a  little  more  secretive  and 
sullen  and  familiar  with  unrightable  wrong.  But  ignoring 
that  pain  will  not  prevent  its  having  existed;  it  must 
remain  for  ever  to  trouble  God's  omniscience  and  be  a 
part  of  that  hell  which  the  creation  too  truly  involves. 

If  all  unfortunate  people  could  be  proved  to  be  uncon 
scious  automata,  what  a  brilliant  justification  that  would 
be  for  the  ways  of  both  God  and  man  !  Philosophy 
would  not  lack  arguments  to  support  such  an  agreeable 
conclusion.  Beginning  with  the  axiom  that  whatever 
is  is  right,  a  metaphysician  might  adduce  the  truth  that 
consciousness  is  something  self-existent  and  indubitably 
real ;  therefore,  he  would  contend,  it  must  be  self -justifying 
and  indubitably  good.  And  he  might  continue  by  saying 
that  a  slave's  life  was  not  its  own  excuse  for  being,  nor 
were  the  labours  of  a  million  drudges  otherwise  justified 
than  by  the  conveniences  which  they  supplied  their  masters 
with.  Ergo,  those  servile  operations  could  come  to  con 
sciousness  only  where  they  attained  their  end,  and  the 
world  could  contain  nothing  but  perfect  and  universal 
happiness.  A  divine  omniscience  and  joy,  shared  by 
finite  minds  in  so  far  as  they  might  attain  perfection, 
would  be  the  only  Hie  in  existence,  and  the  notion  that 
such  a  thing  as  pain,  sorrow,  or  hatred  could  exist  at  all 
would  forthwith  vanish  like  the  hideous  and  ridiculous 
illusion  that  it  was.  This  argument  may  be  recommended 
to  apologetic  writers  as  no  weaker  than  those  they  com 
monly  rely  on,  and  infinitely  more  consoling. 

The  value  which  the  world  has  in  the  eyes  of  its  inhabi 
tants  is  necessarily  mixed,  so  that  a  sweeping  optimism 
or  pessimism  can  be  only  a  theoretic  pose,  false  to  the 
natural  sentiment  even  of  those  who  assume  it.  Both 
are  impressionistic  judgments  passed  on  the  world  at  large, 
not  perhaps  without  some  impertinence.  However  good 
or  however  bad  the  universe  may  be,  it  is  always  worth 
while  to  make  it  better.  But  metaphysicians  sometimes 
so  define  the  good  as  to  make  it  a  matter  of  no  importance  ; 
not  seldom  they  give  that  name  to  the  sum  of  all  evils. 



IT  is  an  observation  at  first  sight  melancholy  but  in  the 
end,  perhaps,  enlightening,  that  the  earliest  poets  are 
the  most  ideal,  and  that  primitive  ages  furnish  the  most 
heroic  characters  and  have  the  clearest  vision  of  a  perfect 
life.  The  Homeric  times  must  have  been  full  of  ignorance 
and  suffering.  In  those  little  barbaric  towns,  in  those 
camps  and  farms,  in  those  shipyards,  there  must  have 
been  much  insecurity  and  superstition.  That  age  was 
singularly  poor  in  all  that  concerns  the  convenience  of 
life  and  the  entertainment  of  the  mind  with  arts  and 
sciences.  Yet  it  had  a  sense  for  civilization.  That 
machinery  of  life  which  men  were  beginning  to  devise 
appealed  to  them  as  poetical ;  they  knew  its  ultimate 
justification  and  studied  its  incipient  processes  with 
delight.  The  poetry  of  that  simple  and  ignorant  age  was, 
accordingly,  the  sweetest  and  sanest  that  the  world  has 
known  ;  the  most  faultless  in  taste,  and  the  most  even 
and  lofty  in  inspiration.  Without  lacking  variety  and 
homeliness,  it  bathed  all  things  human  in  the  golden 
light  of  morning  ;  it  clothed  sorrow  in  a  kind  of  majesty, 
instinct  with  both  self-control  and  heroic  frankness.  No 
where  else  can  we  find  so  noble  a  rendering  of  human 
nature,  so  spontaneous  a  delight  in  life,  so  uncompromising 
a  dedication  to  beauty,  and  such  a  gift  of  seeing  beauty 
in  everything.  Homer,  the  first  of  poets,  was  also  the 
best  and  the  most  poetical. 

From  this  beginning,  if  we  look  down  the  history  of 
occidental  literature,  we  see  the  power  of  idealization 
steadily  decline.  For  while  it  finds  here  and  there,  as  in 
Dante,  a  more  spiritual  theme  and  a  subtler  and  riper 
intellect,  it  pays  for  that  advantage  by  a  more  than  equiva 
lent  loss  in  breadth,  sanity,  and  happy  vigour.  And  if 
ever  imagination  bursts  out  with  a  greater  potency,  as 
in  Shakespeare  (who  excels  the  patriarch  of  poetry  in 
depth  of  passion  and  vividness  of  characterization,  and  in 
those  exquisite  bubblings  of  poetry  and  humour  in  which 


English  genius  is  at  its  best),  yet  Shakespeare  also  pays 
the  price  by  a  notable  loss  in  taste,  in  sustained  inspiration, 
in  consecration,  and  in  rationality.  There  is  more  or  less 
rubbish  in  his  greatest  works.  When  we  come  down  to 
our  own  day  we  find  poets  of  hardly  less  natural  endow 
ment  (for  in  endowment  all  ages  are  perhaps  alike)  and 
with  vastly  richer  sources  of  inspiration ;  for  they  have 
many  arts  and  literatures  behind  them,  with  the  spectacle 
of  a  varied  and  agitated  society,  a  world  which  is  the  living 
microcosm  of  its  own  history  and  presents  in  one  picture 
many  races,  arts,  and  religions.  Our  poets  have  more 
wonderful  tragedies  of  the  imagination  to  depict  than  had 
Homer,  whose  world  was  innocent  of  any  essential  defeat, 
or  Dante,  who  believed  in  the  world's  definitive  redemption. 
Or,  if  perhaps  their  inspiration  is  comic,  they  have  the 
pageant  of  mediaeval  manners,  with  its  picturesque  artifices 
and  passionate  fancies,  and  the  long  comedy  of  modern 
social  revolutions,  so  illusory  in  their  aims  and  so  produc 
tive  in  their  aimlessness.  They  have,  moreover,  the  new 
and  marvellous  conception  which  natural  science  has  given 
us  of  the  world  and  of  the  conditions  of  human  progress. 

With  all  these  lessons  of  experience  behind  them, 
however,  we  find  our  contemporary  poets  incapable  of 
any  high  wisdom,  incapable  of  any  imaginative  rendering 
of  human  life  and  its  meaning.  Our  poets  are  things  of 
shreds  and  patches ;  they  give  us  episodes  and  studies, 
a  sketch  of  this  curiosity,  a  glimpse  of  that  romance  ;  they 
have  no  total  vision,  no  grasp  of  the  whole  reality,  and 
consequently  no  capacity  for  a  sane  and  steady  idealization. 
This  age  of  material  elaboration  has  no  sense  for  perfection. 
Its  fancy  is  retrospective,  whimsical,  and  flickering ;  its 
ideals,  when  it  has  any,  are  negative  and  partial ;  its  moral 
strength  is  a  blind  and  miscellaneous  vehemence.  Its 
poetry,  in  a  word,  is  the  poetry  of  barbarism. 

This  poetry  should  be  viewed  in  relation  to  the  general 
moral  crisis  and  imaginative  disintegration  of  which  it 
gives  a  verbal  echo  ;  then  we  shall  avoid  the  injustice  of 
passing  it  over  as  insignificant,  no  less  than  the  imbecility 
of  hailing  it  as  essentially  glorious  and  successful.  We 
must  remember  that  the  imagination  of  our  race  has  been 
subject  to  a  double  discipline.  It  has  been  formed  partly 


in  the  school  of  classic  literature  and  polity,  and  partly 
in  the  school  of  Christian  piety.  This  duality  of  inspira 
tion,  this  contradiction  between  the  two  accepted  methods 
of  rationalizing  the  world,  has  been  a  chief  source  of  that 
incoherence,  that  romantic  indistinctness  and  imperfection, 
which  largely  characterize  the  products  of  the  modern  arts. 
A  man  cannot  serve  two  masters  ;  yet  the  conditions 
have  not  been  such  as  to  allow  him  wholly  to  despise  the 
one  or  wholly  to  obey  the  other.  To  be  wholly  pagan 
is  impossible  after  the  dissolution  of  that  civilization  which 
had  seemed  universal,  and  that  empire  which  had  believed 
itself  eternal.  To  be  wholly  Christian  is  impossible  for 
a  similar  reason,  now  that  the  illusion  and  cohesion  of 
Christian  ages  is  lost,  and  for  the  further  reason  that 
Christianity  was  itself  fundamentally  eclectic.  Before  it 
could  succeed  and  dominate  men  even  for  a  time,  it  was 
obliged  to  adjust  itself  to  reality,  to  incorporate  many 
elements  of  pagan  wisdom,  and  to  accommodate  itself  to 
many  habits  and  passions  at  variance  with  its  own  ideal. 

In  these  latter  times,  with  the  prodigious  growth  of 
material  life  in  elaboration  and  of  mental  life  in  diffusion, 
there  has  supervened  upon  this  old  dualism  a  new  faith 
in  man's  absolute  power,  a  kind  of  return  to  the  inexperi 
ence  and  self-assurance  of  youth.  This  new  inspiration 
has  made  many  minds  indifferent  to  the  two  traditional 
disciplines  ;  neither  is  seriously  accepted  by  them,  for 
the  reason,  excellent  from  their  own  point  of  view,  that 
no  discipline  whatever  is  needed.  The  memory  of  ancient 
disillusions  has  faded  with  time.  Ignorance  of  the  past 
has  bred  contempt  for  the  lessons  which  the  past  might 
teach.  Men  prefer  to  repeat  the  old  experiment  without 
knowing  that  they  repeat  it. 


So  long  as  happiness  is  conceived  as  a  poet  might 
conceive  it,  namely,  in  its  immediately  sensuous  and 
emotional  factors,  so  long  as  we  live  in  the  moment  and 


make  our  happiness  consist  in  the  simplest  things, — in 
breathing,  seeing,  hearing,  loving,  and  sleeping, — our 
happiness  has  the  same  substance,  the  same  elements,  as  our 
aesthetic  delight,  for  it  is  aesthetic  delight  that  makes  our 
happiness.  Yet  poets  and  artists,  with  their  immediate 
and  aesthetic  joys,  are  not  thought  to  be  happy  men  ; 
they  themselves  are  apt  to  be  loud  in  their  lamentations, 
and  to  regard  themselves  as  eminently  and  tragically 
unhappy.  This  arises  from  the  intensity  and  inconstancy 
of  their  emotions,  from  their  improvidence,  and  from  the 
eccentricity  of  their  social  habits.  While  among  them  the 
sensuous  and  vital  functions  have  the  upper  hand,  the 
gregarious  and  social  instincts  are  subordinated  and  often 
deranged  ;  and  their  unhappiness  consists  in  the  sense  of 
their  unfitness  to  live  in  the  world  into  which  they  are 

But  man  is  pre-eminently  a  political  animal,  and  social 
needs  are  almost  as  fundamental  in  him  as  vital  functions, 
and  often  more  conscious.  Friendship,  wealth,  reputation, 
power,  and  influence,  when  added  to  family  life,  constitute 
surely  the  main  elements  of  happiness.  Now  these  are 
only  very  partially  composed  of  definite  images.  The 
desire  for  them,  the  consciousness  of  their  absence  or 
possession,  comes  upon  us  only  when  we  reflect,  when  we 
are  planning,  considering  the  future,  gathering  the  words 
of  others,  rehearsing  their  scorn  or  admiration  for  ourselves, 
conceiving  possible  situations  in  which  our  virtue,  our 
fame  or  power  would  become  conspicuous,  comparing  our 
lot  with  that  of  others,  and  going  through  other  discursive 
processes  of  thought.  If  artists  and  poets  are  unhappy, 
it  is  after  all  because  happiness  does  not  interest  them. 
They  cannot  seriously  pursue  it,  because  its  components 
are  not  components  of  beauty,  and  being  in  love  with  beauty, 
they  neglect  and  despise  those  unaesthetic  social  virtues 
in  the  operation  of  which  happiness  is  found.  On  the 
other  hand  those  who  pursue  happiness  conceived  merely 
in  abstract  and  conventional  terms,  as  money,  success,  or 
respectability,  often  miss  that  real  and  fundamental 
part  of  happiness  which  flows  from  the  senses  and  imagina 
tion.  This  element  is  what  the  love  of  beauty  can  add 
to  life ;  for  beauty  can  also  be  a  cause  and  a  factor  of 


happiness.  Yet  the  happiness  of  loving  beauty  is  either 
too  sensuous  to  be  stable,  or  else  too  ultimate,  too  sacra 
mental,  to  be  accounted  happiness  by  the  worldly  mind. 


EVERY  Italian  of  culture  in  the  days  of  the  Renaissance 
was  in  the  habit  of  addressing  little  pieces  to  his  friends, 
and  of  casting  his  thoughts  or  his  prayers  into  the  mould 
of  a  sonnet  or  a  madrigal.  Verse  has  a  greater  naturalness 
and  a  wider  range  among  the  Latin  peoples  than  among 
the  English  ;  poetry  and  prose  are  less  differentiated. 
In  French,  Italian,  and  Spanish,  as  in  Latin  itself,  elegance 
and  neatness  of  expression  suffice  for  verse.  The  reader 
passes  without  any  sense  of  incongruity  or  anti-climax 
from  passion  to  reflection,  from  sentiment  to  satire,  from 
flights  of  fancy  to  homely  details  :  the  whole  has  a  certain 
human  sincerity  and  intelligibility  which  weld  it  together. 
As  the  Latin  languages  are  not  composed  of  two  diverse 
elements,  as  English  is  of  Latin  and  German,  so  the  Latin 
mind  does  not  have  two  spheres  of  sentiment,  one  vulgar 
and  the  other  sublime.  All  changes  are  variations  on  a 
single  key,  which  is  the  key  of  intelligence.  We  must  not 
be  surprised,  therefore,  to  find  now  a  message  to  a  friend, 
now  an  artistic  maxim,  now  a  bit  of  dialectic,  and  now  a 
confession  of  sin,  taking  the  form  of  verse  and  filling  out 
the  fourteen  lines  of  a  sonnet.  On  the  contrary,  we  must 
look  to  these  familiar  compositions  for  the  most  genuine 
evidence  of  a  man's  daily  thoughts. 


DANTE,  gifted  with  the  tenderest  sense  of  colour,  and  the 
firmest  art  of  design,  has  put  his  whole  world  into  his 
canvas.  Seen  there,  that  world  becomes  complete,  clear, 

DANTE  187 

beautiful,  and  tragic.  It  is  vivid  and  truthful  in  its  detail, 
sublime  in  its  march  and  in  its  harmony.  This  is  not 
poetry  where  the  parts  are  better  than  the  whole.  Here, 
as  in  some  great  symphony,  everything  is  cumulative  : 
the  movements  conspire,  the  tension  grows,  the  volume 
redoubles,  the  keen  melody  soars  higher  and  higher ; 
and  it  all  ends,  not  with  a  bang,  not  with  some  casual 
incident,  but  in  sustained  reflection,  in  the  sense  that  it 
has  not  ended,  but  remains  by  us  in  its  totality,  a  revela 
tion  and  a  resource  for  ever.  It  has  taught  us  to  love  and 
to  renounce,  to  judge  and  to  worship.  What  more  could 
a  poet  do  ?  Dante  poetized  all  life  and  nature  as  he  found 
them  His  imagination  dominated  and  focussed  the  whole 
world.  He  thereby  touched  the  ultimate  goal  to  which 
a  poet  can  aspire  ;  he  set  the  standard  for  all  possible 
performance,  and  became  the  type  of  a  supreme  poet. 
This  is  not  to  say  that  he  is  the  "  greatest  "  of  poets.  The 
relative  merit  of  poets  is  a  barren  thing  to  wrangle  about. 
The  question  can  always  be  opened  anew,  when  a  critic 
appears  with  a  fresh  temperament  or  a  new  criterion. 
Even  less  need  we  say  that  no  greater  poet  can  ever  arise  ; 
we  may  be  confident  of  the  opposite.  But  Dante  gives  a 
successful  example  of  the  highest  species  of  poetry.  His 
poetry  covers  the  whole  field  from  which  poetry  may  be 
fetched,  and  to  which  poetry  may  be  applied,  from  the 
inmost  recesses  of  the  heart  to  the  uttermost  bounds  of 
nature  and  of  destiny.,  If  to  give  imaginative  value  to 
something  is  the  minimum  task  of  a  poet,  to  give  imagina 
tive  value  to  all  things,  and  to  the  system  which  things 
compose,  is  evidently  his  greatest  task. 

Dante  fulfilled  this  task,  of  course  under  special  con 
ditions  and  limitations,  personal  and  social ;  but  he 
fulfilled  it,  and  he  thereby  fulfilled  the  conditions  of 
supreme  poetry.,  Even  Homer,  as  we  are  beginning  to 
perceive  nowadays,  suffered  from  a  certain  conventionality 
and  one-sidedness.  There  was  much  in  the  life  and  religion 
of  his  time  that  his  art  ignored.  It  was  a  flattering,  a 
euphemistic  art  ;  it  had  a  sort  of  pervasive  blandness, 
like  that  which  we  now  associate  with  a  fashionable  sermon. 
It  was  poetry  addressed  to  the  ruling  caste  in  the  state,  to 
the  conquerors  ;  and  it  spread  an  intentional  glamour  over 


their  past  brutalities  and  present  self-deceptions.  No 
such  partiality  in  Dante  ;  he  paints  what  he  hates  as 
frankly  as  what  he  loves,  and  in  all  things  he  is  complete 
and  sincere.  Yet  if  any  similar  adequacy  is  attained  again 
by  any  poet,  it  will  not  be,  presumably,  by  a  poet  of  the 
supernatural.  Henceforth,  for  any  wide  and  honest 
imagination,  the  supernatural  must  figure  as  an  idea  in 
the  human  mind, — a  part  of  the  natural.  To  conceive 
it  otherwise  would  be  to  fall  short  of  the  insight  of  this  age, 
not  to  express  or  to  complete  it.  Dante,  however,  for  this 
very  reason,  may  be  expected  to  remain  the  supreme  poet 
of  the  supernatural,  the  unrivalled  exponent,  after  Plato, 
of  that  phase  of  thought  and  feeling  in  which  the  super 
natural  seems  to  be  the  key  to  nature  and  to  happiness. 
This  is  the  hypothesis  on  which,  as  yet,  moral  unity  has 
been  best  attained  in  this  world.  Here,  then,  we  have  the 
most  complete  idealization  and  comprehension  of  things 
achieved  by  mankind  hitherto.  Dante  is  the  type  of  a 
consummate  poet. 


SHAKESPEARE  could  be  idealistic  when  he  dreamed,  as  he 
could  be  spiritual  when  he  reflected.  The  spectacle  of  life 
did  not  pass  before  his  eyes  as  a  mere  phantasmagoria. 
He  seized  upon  its  principles  ;  he  became  wise.  Nothing 
can  exceed  the  ripeness  of  his  seasoned  judgment,  or  the 
occasional  breadth,  sadness,  and  terseness  of  his  reflection. 
The  author  of  Hamlet  could  not  be  without  metaphysical 
aptitude  ;  Macbeth  could  not  have  been  written  without 
a  sort  of  sibylline  inspiration,  or  the  Sonnets  without 
something  of  the  Platonic  mind.  It  is  all  the  more 
remarkable,  therefore,  that  we  should  have  to  search 
through  all  the  works  of  Shakespeare  to  find  half-a-dozen 
passages  that  have  so  much  as  a  religious  sound,  and  that 
even  these  passages,  upon  examination,  should  prove  not 
to  be  the  expression  of  any  deep  religious  conception. 
If  Shakespeare  had  been  without  metaphysical  capacity, 


or  without  moral  maturity,  we  could  have  explained  his 
strange  insensibility  to  religion  ;  but  as  it  is,  we  must 
marvel  at  his  indifference  and  ask  ourselves  what  can  be 
the  causes  of  it.  For,  even  if  we  should  not  regard  the 
absence  of  religion  as  an  imperfection  in  his  own  thought, 
we  must  admit  it  to  be  an  incompleteness  in  his  portrayal 
of  the  thought  of  others.  Positivism  may  be  a  virtue  in 
a  philosopher,  but  it  is  a  vice  in  a  dramatist,  who  has 
to  render  those  human  passions  to  which  the  religious 
imagination  has  always  given  a  larger  meaning  and  a 
greater  depth. 

Those  poets  by  whose  side  we  are  accustomed  to  put 
Shakespeare  did  not  forgo  this  advantage.  They  gave  us 
man  with  his  piety  and  the  world  with  its  gods.  Homer 
is  the  chief  repository  of  the  Greek  religion,  and  Dante  the 
faithful  interpreter  of  the  Catholic.  Nature  would  have 
been  inconceivable  to  them  without  the  supernatural, 
or  man  without  the  influence  and  companionship  of  the 
gods.  These  poets  live  in  a  cosmos.  In  their  minds,  as 
in  the  mind  of  their  age,  the  fragments  of  experience  have 
fallen  together  into  a  perfect  picture,  like  the  bits  of  glass 
in  a  kaleidoscope.  Their  universe  is  a  total.  Reason  and 
imagination  have  mastered  it  completely  and  peopled  it. 
No  chaos  remains  beyond,  or,  if  it  does,  it  is  thought  of 
with  an  involuntary  shudder  that  soon  passes  into  a  healthy 
indifference.  They  have  a  theory  of  human  life  ;  they 
see  man  in  his  relations,  surrounded  by  a  kindred  universe 
in  which  he  fills  his  allotted  place.  He  knows  the  meaning 
and  issue  of  his  life,  and  does  not  voyage  without  a 

Shakespeare's  world,  on  the  contrary,  is  only  the  world 
of  human  society.  The  cosmos  eludes  him  ;  he  does  not 
seem  to  feel  the  need  of  framing  that  idea.  He  depicts 
human  life  in  all  its  richness  and  variety,  but  leaves  that 
life  without  a  setting,  and  consequently  without  a  meaning. 
If  we  asked  him  to  tell  us  what  is  the  significance  of  the 
passion  and  beauty  he  had  so  vividly  displayed,  and  what 
is  the  outcome  of  it  all,  he  could  hardly  answer  in  any 
other  words  than  those  he  puts  into  the  mouth  of 
Macbeth  : — 


"  To-morrow,  and  to-morrow,  and  to-morrow, 
Creeps  in  this  petty  pace  from  day  to  day, 
To  the  last  syllable  of  recorded  time  ; 
And  all  our  yesterdays  have  lighted  fools 
The  way  to  dusty  death.     Out,  out,  brief  candle  ! 
Life's  but  a  walking  shadow,  a  poor  player 
That  struts  and  frets  his  hour  upon  the  stage 
And  then  is  heard  no  more  :   it  is  a  tale 
Told  by  an  idiot,  full  of  sound  and  fury, 
Signifying  nothing." 

How  differently  would  Homer  or  Dante  have  answered 
that  question  !  Their  tragedy  would  have  been  illumined 
by  a  sense  of  the  divinity  of  life  and  beauty,  or  by  a  sense 
of  the  sanctity  of  suffering  and  death.  Their  faith  had 
enveloped  the  world  of  experience  in  a  world  of  imagination, 
in  which  the  ideals  of  the  reason,  of  the  fancy,  and  of  the 
heart  had  a  natural  expression.  They  had  caught  in  the 
reality  the  hint  of  a  lovelier  fable, — a  fable  in  which  that 
reality  was  completed  and  idealized,  and  made  at  once 
vaster  in  its  extent  and  more  intelligible  in  its  principle. 
They  had,  as  it  were,  dramatized  the  universe,  and  endowed 
it  with  the  tragic  unities.  In  contrast  with  such  a  luminous 
philosophy  and  so  well-digested  an  experience,  the  silence 
of  Shakespeare  and  his  philosophical  incoherence  have 
something  in  them  that  is  still  heathen  ;  something  that 
makes  us  wonder  whether  the  northern  mind,  even  in  him, 
did  not  remain  morose  and  barbarous  at  its  inmost  core. 


NOTHING  is  further  from  the  common  people  than  the 
corrupt  desire  to  be  primitive.  They  instinctively  look 
toward  a  more  exalted  life,  which  they  imagine  to  be  full 
of  distinction  and  pleasure,  and  the  idea  of  that  brighter 
existence  fills  them  with  hope  or  with  envy  or  with  humble 
admiration.  But  a  barbarous  ideal  requires  tasks  and 
dangers  incompatible  with  happiness  ;  a  rude  and  oppressed 
conscience  is  incapable  of  regarding  as  good  a  state  which 
excludes  its  own  acrid  satisfactions. 

The  purpose  of  education   is   to    free   us   from   these 


prejudices.  For  the  barbarian  is  the  man  who  regards  his 
passions  as  their  own  excuse  for  being  ;  who  does  not 
domesticate  them  either  by  understanding  their  cause  or 
by  conceiving  their  ideal  goal.  He  is  the  man  who  does 
not  know  his  derivations  nor  perceive  his  tendencies,  but 
who  merely  feels  and  acts,  valuing  in  his  life  its  force  and 
its  filling,  but  being  careless  of  its  purpose  and  its  form. 
His  delight  is  in  abundance  and  vehemence  ;  his  art,  like  his 
life,  shows  an  exclusive  respect  for  quantity  and  splendour 
of  materials.  His  scorn  for  what  is  poorer  and  weaker  than 
himself  is  only  surpassed  by  his  ignorance  of  what  is  higher. 
To  frame  solid  ideals,  which  would,  in  fact,  be  better 
than  actual  things,  is  not  granted  to  the  merely  irritable 
poet ;  it  is  granted  only  to  the  master- workman,  to  the 
modeller  of  some  given  substance  to  some  given  use — 
things  which  define  his  aspiration,  and  separate  what  is 
relevant  and  glorious  in  his  dreams  from  that  large  part 
of  them  which  is  merely  ignorant  and  peevish.  In 
romantic  drama,  accidents  make  the  meaningless  happiness 
or  unhappiness  of  a  supersensitive  adventurer.  Chivalry 
is  a  fine  emblazoning  of  the  original  manly  impulse  to  fight 
every  man  and  love  every  woman.  Something  drives  the 
youth  afield,  into  solitude,  into  alien  friendships  ;  only  in 
the  face  of  nature  and  an  indifferent  world  can  he  become 
himself.  Such  a  flight  from  home  and  all  its  pieties  grows 
more  urgent  when  there  is  some  real  conflict  of  temper  or 
conscience  between  the  young  man  and  what  is  established 
in  his  family ;  and  this  happens  often  because,  after  all, 
the  most  beneficent  conventions  are  but  mechanisms 
which  must  ignore  the  nicer  sensibilities  and  divergences 
of  living  souls.  Common  men  accept  these  spiritual 
tyrannies,  weak  men  repine  at  them,  and  great  men  break 
them  down. 


THE  picture  of  life  as  an  eternal  war  for  illusory  ends 
was  drawn  at  first  by  satirists,  unhappily  with  too 
much  justification  in  the  facts.  Some  grosser  minds,  too 


undisciplined  to  have  ever  pursued  a  good  either  truly 
attainable  or  truly  satisfactory,  then  proceeded  to  mistake 
that  satire  on  human  folly  for  a  sober  account  of  the  whole 
universe  ;  and  finally  others  were  not  ashamed  to  represent 
it  as  the  ideal  itself — so  soon  is  the  dyer's  hand  subdued 
to  what  it  works  in.  A  barbarous  mind  cannot  conceive 
life,  like  health,  as  a  harmony  continually  preserved  or 
restored,  and  containing  those  natural  and  ideal  activities 
which  disease  merely  interrupts.  Such  a  mind,  never 
having  tasted  order,  cannot  conceive  it,  and  identifies 
progress  with  new  conflicts  and  life  with  continual  death. 
Its  deification  of  unreason,  instability,  and  strife  comes 
partly  from  piety  and  partly  from  inexperience.  There  is 
piety  in  saluting  nature  in  her  perpetual  flux  and  in  thinking 
that  since  no  equilibrium  is  maintained  for  ever  none, 
perhaps,  deserves  to  be.  There  is  inexperience  in  not 
considering  that  wherever  interests  and  judgments  exist, 
the  natural  flux  has  fallen,  so  to  speak,  into  a  vortex,  and 
created  a  natural  good,  a  cumulative  life,  and  an  ideal 
purpose.  Art,  science,  government,  human  nature  itself, 
are  self-defining  and  self-preserving  :  by  partly  fixing  a 
structure  they  fix  an  ideal.  But  the  barbarian  can  hardly 
regard  such  things,  for  to  have  distinguished  and  fostered 
them  would  be  to  have  founded  a  civilization. 

To  confuse  means  with  ends  and  mistake  disorder  for 
vitality  is  not  unnatural  to  minds  that  hear  the  hum  of 
mighty  workings  but  can  imagine  neither  the  cause  nor 
the  fruits  of  that  portentous  commotion.  All  functions, 
in  such  chaotic  lives,  seem  instrumental  functions.  It  is 
then  supposed  that  what  serves  no  further  purpose  can 
have  no  value,  and  that  he  who  suffers  no  effuscation  can 
have  no  feeling  and  no  life.  To  attain  an  ideal  seems  to 
destroy  its  worth.  Moral  life,  at  that  low  level,  is  a 
fantastic  game  only,  not  having  come  in  sight  of  humane 
and  liberal  interests.  The  barbarian's  intensity  is  without 
seriousness  and  his  passion  without  joy.  His  philosophy, 
which  means  to  glorify  all  experience  and  to  digest  all  vice, 
is  in  truth  an  expression  of  pathetic  innocence.  It  betrays 
a  rudimentary  impulse  to  follow  every  beckoning  hand,  to 
assume  that  no  adventure  and  no  bewitchment  can  be  any 
thing  but  glorious.  Such  an  attitude  is  intelligible  in  one 


who  has  never  seen  anything  worth  seeing  nor  loved  anything 
worth  loving.  Immaturity  could  go  no  further  than  to 
acknowledge  no  limits  denning  will  and  happiness.  When 
such  limits,  however,  are  gradually  discovered  and  an 
authoritative  ideal  is  born  of  the  marriage  of  human  nature 
with  experience,  happiness  becomes  at  once  definite  and 
attainable  ;  for  adjustment  is  possible  to  a  world  that  has 
a  fruitful  and  intelligible  structure. 

Such  incoherences,  which  might  well  arise  in  ages  without 
traditions,  may  be  preserved  and  fostered  by  superstition. 
Perpetual  servile  employments  and  subjection  to  an 
irrational  society  may  render  people  incapable  even  of 
conceiving  a  liberal  life.  They  may  come  to  think  their 
happiness  no  longer  separable  from  their  misery  and  to  fear 
the  large  emptiness,  as  they  deem  it,  of  a  happy  world. 
Like  the  prisoner  of  Chillon,  after  so  long  a  captivity,  they 
would  regain  their  freedom  with  a  sigh.  The  wholesome 
influences  of  nature,  however,  would  soon  revive  their 
wills,  contorted  by  unnatural  oppression,  and  a  vision  of 
perfection  would  arise  within  them  upon  breathing  a  purer 
air.  Freedom  and  perfection  are  synonymous  with  life. 
The  peace  they  bring  is  one 

whose  names  are  also  rapture,  power, 
Clear  sight,  and  love ;  for  these  are  parts  of  peace. 


THE  romantic  poet  is  a  novelist  in  verse.  He  is  a  philo 
sopher  of  experience  as  it  comes  to  the  individual ;  the 
philosopher  of  life,  as  action,  memory,  or  soliloquy  may 
put  life  before  each  of  us  in  turn.  Now  the  zest  of 
romanticism  consists  in  taking  what  you  know  is  an  inde 
pendent  and  ancient  world  as  if  it  were  material  for  your 
private  emotions.  The  savage  or  the  animal,  who  should 
not  be  aware  of  nature  or  history  at  all,  could  not  be 
romantic  about  them,  nor  about  himself.  He  would  be 
blandly  idiotic,  and  take  everything  quite  unsuspectingly 



for  what  it  was  in  him.  The  romanticist,  then,  should  be 
a  civilized  man,  so  that  his  primitiveness  and  egotism  may 
have  something  paradoxical  and  conscious  about  them  ; 
and  so  that  his  life  may  contain  a  rich  experience,  and  his 
reflection  may  play  with  all  varieties  of  sentiment  and 
•thought.  At  the  same  time,  in  his  inmost  genius,  he  should 
be  a  barbarian,  a  child,  a  transcendentalist,  so  that  his  life 
may  seem  to  him  absolutely  fresh,  self-determined,  un 
foreseen,  and  unforeseeable.  It  is  part  of  his  inspiration 
to  believe  that  he  creates  a  new  heaven  and  a  new  earth 
with  each  revolution  in  his  moods  or  in  his  purposes.  He 
ignores,  or  seeks  to  ignore,  all  the  conditions  of  life,  until 
perhaps  by  living  he  personally  discovers  them.  Like 
Faust,  he  flouts  science,  and  is  minded  to  make  trial  of 
magic,  which  renders  a  man's  will  master  of  the  universe 
in  which  he  seems  to  live.  He  disowns  all  authority,  save 
that  mysteriously  exercised  over  him  by  his  deep  faith 
in  himself.  He  is  always  honest  and  brave  ;  but  he  is 
always  different,  and  absolves  himself  from  his  past  as 
soon  as  he  has  outgrown  or  forgotten  it.  He  is  inclined  to 
be  wayward  and  foolhardy,  justifying  himself  on  the  ground 
that  all  experience  is  interesting,  that  the  springs  of  it  are 
inexhaustible  and  always  pure,  and  that  the  future  of  his 
soul  is  infinite.  In  the  romantic  hero  the  civilized  man 
and  the  barbarian  must  be  combined  ;  he  should  be  the 
heir  to  all  civilization,  and,  nevertheless,  he  should  take 
life  arrogantly  and  egotistically,  as  if  it  were  an  absolute 
personal  experiment. 

The  great  merit  of  the  romantic  attitude  in  poetry,  and 
of  the  transcendental  method  in  philosophy,  is  that  they 
put  us  back  at  the  beginning  of  our  experience.  They 
disintegrate  convention,  which  is  often  cumbrous  and 
confused,  and  restore  us  to  ourselves,  to  immediate  per 
ception  and  primordial  will.  That,  as  it  would  seem,  is 
the  true  and  inevitable  starting-point.  Had  we  not  been 
born,  had  we  not  peeped  into  this  world,  each  out  of  his 
personal  eggshell,  this  world  might  indeed  have  existed 
without  us,  as  a  thousand  undiscoverable  worlds  may  now 
exist ;  but  for  us  it  would  not  have  existed.  This  obvious 
truth  would  not  need  to  be  insisted  on  but  for  two  reasons  : 
one  that  conventional  knowledge,  such  as  our  notions  of 


science  and  morality  afford,  is  often  top-heavy ;  it  asserts 
and  imposes  on  us  much  more  than  our  experience  warrants, 
— our  experience,  which  is  our  only  approach  to  reality. 
The  other  reason  is  the  reverse  or  counterpart  of  this  ;  for 
conventional  knowledge  often  ignores  and  seems  to  suppress 
parts  of  experience  no  less  actual  and  important  for  us 
than  those  parts  on  which  the  conventional  knowledge  itself 
is  reared.  The  public  world  is  too  narrow  for  the  soul, 
as  well  as  too  mythical  and  fabulous.  Hence  the  double 
critical  labour  and  reawakening  which  romantic  reflection 
is  good  for, — to  cut  off  the  dead  branches  and  feed  the 
starving  shoots.  This  philosophy,  as  Kant  said,  is  a 
cathartic  :  it  is  purgative  and  liberating  ;  it  is  intended  to 
make  us  start  afresh  and  start  right. 

It  follows  that  one  who  has  no  sympathy  with  such  a 
philosophy  is  a  comparatively  conventional  person.  He 
has  a  second-hand  mind.  It  follows,  also,  however,  that 
one  who  has  no  philosophy  but  this  has  no  wisdom  ;  he 
can  say  nothing  that  is  worth  carrying  away ;  everything 
in  him  is  attitude  and  nothing  is  achievement.  Words  of 
wisdom  diversify  this  career  of  folly,  as  exquisite  scenes 
fill  this  tortuous  and  overloaded  drama.  The  mind  has 
become  free  and  sincere,  but  it  has  remained  bewildered. 

The  literary  merits  of  romanticism  correspond  accurately 
with  its  philosophical  excellences.  In  the  prologue  to 
Faust,  Goethe  has  described  them ;  much  scenery,  much 
wisdom,  some  folly,  great  wealth  of  incident  and  character 
ization  ;  and  behind,  the  soul  of  a  poet  singing  with  all 
sincerity  and  fervour  the  visions  of  his  life.  Here  is 
profundity,  inwardness,  honesty,  waywardness ;  here  are 
the  most  touching  accents  of  nature,  and  the  most  varied 
assortment  of  curious  lore  and  grotesque  fancies.  This 
work,  says  Goethe,  is  like  human  life  :  it  has  a  beginning, 
it  has  an  end ;  but  it  has  no  totality,  it  is  not  one  whole. 
How,  indeed,  should  we  draw  the  sum  of  an  infinite 
experience  that  is  without  conditions  to  determine  it,  and 
without  goals  in  which  it  terminates  ?  Evidently  all  a  poet 
of  pure  experience  can  do  is  to  represent  some  snatches  of 
it,  more  or  less  prolonged  ;  and  the  more  prolonged  the 
experience  represented  is  the  more  it  will  be  a  collection  of 
snatches,  and  the  less  the  last  part  of  it  will  have  to  do  with 


the  beginning.  Any  character  which  we  may  attribute  to 
the  whole  of  what  we  have  surveyed  would  fail  to  dominate 
it,  if  that  whole  had  been  larger,  and  if  we  had  had  memory 
or  foresight  enough  to  include  other  parts  of  experience 
differing  altogether  in  kind  from  the  episodes  we  happen 
to  have  lived  through.  To  be  miscellaneous,  to  be  in 
definite,  to  be  unfinished,  is  essential  to  the  romantic  life. 
May  we  not  say  that  it  is  essential  to  all  life,  in  its  im 
mediacy  ;  and  that  only  in  reference  to  what  is  not  life — 
to  objects,  ideals,  and  unanimities  that  cannot  be  ex 
perienced  but  may  only  be  conceived — can  life  become 
rational  and  truly  progressive  ?  Herein  we  may  see  the 
radical  and  inalienable  excellence  of  romanticism  ;  its 
sincerity,  freedom,  richness,  and  infinity.  Herein,  too, 
we  may  see  its  limitations,  in  that  it  cannot  fix  or  trust  any 
of  its  ideals,  and  blindly  believes  the  universe  to  be  as 
wayward  as  itself,  so  that  nature  and  art  are  always 
slipping  through  its  fingers.  It  is  obstinately  empirical, 
and  will  never  learn  anything  from  experience. 


WE  should  expect  Faust,  who  had  lain  in  the  lap  of  absolute 
beauty,  to  understand  its  nature.  We  should  expect  him, 
in  eager  search  after  perfection,  to  establish  his  state  on 
the  distinction  between  the  better  and  the  worse, —  a 
distinction  never  to  be  abolished  or  obscured  for  one  who 
has  loved  beauty.  In  other  words,  he  might  have  estab 
lished  a  moral  society,  founding  it  on  great  renunciations 
and  on  enlightened  heroisms,  so  that  the  highest  beauty 
might  really  come  down  and  dwell  within  that  city.  But 
we  find  nothing  of  the  sort.  Faust  founds  his  kingdom 
because  he  must  do  something  ;  and  his  only  ideal  of  what 
he  hopes  to  secure  for  his  subjects  is  that  they  shall  always 
have  something  to  do.  Thus  the  will  to  live,  in  Faust,  is 
not  in  the  least  educated  by  his  experience.  It  changes 
its  objects  because  it  must ;  the  passions  of  youth  yield  to 
those  of  age ;  and  among  all  the  illusions  of  his  life  the 
most  fatuous  is  the  illusion  of  progress. 


It  is  characteristic  of  the  absolute  romantic  spirit 
that  when  it  has  finished  with  something  it  must  invent  a 
new  interest.  It  beats  the  bush  for  fresh  game  ;  it  is 
always  on  the  verge  of  being  utterly  bored.  So  now  that 
Helen  is  flown,  Mephistopheles  must  come  to  the  rescue, 
like  an  amiable  nurse,  and  propose  all  sorts  of  pastimes. 
Frankfort,  Leipzig,  Paris,  Versailles,  are  described,  with 
the  entertainments  that  life  there  might  afford  ;  but  Faust, 
who  was  always  difficile,  has  been  rendered  more  so  by 
his  recent  splendid  adventures.  However,  a  new  impulse 
suddenly  arises  in  his  breast.  From  the  mountain-top  to 
which  Helen's  mantle  has  borne  him,  he  can  see  the  German 
Ocean,  with  its  tides  daily  covering  great  stretches  of  the 
flat  shore,  and  rendering  them  brackish  and  uninhabitable. 
It  would  be  a  fine  thing  to  reclaim  those  wastes,  to  plant 
there  a  prosperous  population.  After  Greece,  Faust  has  a 
vision  of  Holland. 

This  last  ambition  of  Faust's  is  as  romantic  as  the  others. 
He  feels  the  prompting  towards  political  art,  as  he  had  felt 
the  prompting  towards  love  or  beauty.  The  notion  of 
transforming  things  by  his  will,  of  leaving  for  ages  his 
mark  upon  nature  and  upon  human  society,  fascinates 
him  ;  but  this  passion  for  activity  and  power,  which  some 
simple-minded  commentators  dignify  with  the  name  of 
altruism  and  of  living  for  others,  has  no  steady  purpose 
or  standard  about  it.  Goethe  is  especially  lavish  in  details 
to  prove  this  point.  Magic,  the  exercise  of  an  unteachable 
will,  is  still  Faust's  instrument.  Mephistopheles,  by  various 
arts  of  illusion,  secures  the  triumph  of  the  emperor  in 
a  desperate  war  which  he  is  carrying  on  against  a  justifi 
able  insurrection.  As  a  reward  for  the  aid  rendered, 
Faust  receives  the  shore  marches  in  fief.  The  necessary 
dykes  and  canals  are  built  by  magic ;  the  spirits  that 
Mephistopheles  commands  dig  and  build  them  with 
strange  incantations.  The  commerce  that  springs  up  is 
also  illegitimate  :  piracy  is  involved  in  it. 

Nor  is  this  all.  On  some  sand-dunes  that  diversified 
the  original  beach,  an  old  man  and  his  wife,  Philemon  and 
Baucis,  lived  before  the  advent  of  Faust  and  his  improve 
ments.  On  the  hillock,  besides  their  cottage,  there  stood 
a  small  chapel,  with  a  bell  which  disturbed  Faust  in  his 


newly  built  palace,  partly  by  its  importunate  sound, 
partly  by  its  Christian  suggestions,  and  partly  by  reminding 
him  that  he  was  not  master  of  the  country  altogether, 
and  that  something  existed  in  it  not  the  product  of  his 
magical  will.  The  old  people  would  not  sell  out ;  and  in 
a  fit  of  impatience  Faust  orders  that  they  should  be  evicted 
by  force,  and  transferred  to  a  better  dwelling  elsewhere. 
Mephistopheles  and  his  minions  execute  these  orders 
somewhat  roughly  :  the  cottage  and  chapel  are  set  on  fire, 
and  Philemon  and  Baucis  are  consumed  in  the  flames,  or 
buried  in  the  ruins. 

Faust  regrets  this  accident ;  but  it  is  one  of  those 
inevitable  developments  of  action  which  a  brave  man 
must  face,  and  forget  as  soon  as  possible.  He  had  regretted 
in  the  same  way  the  unhappiness  of  Gretchen,  and,  pre 
sumably,  the  death  of  Euphorion  ;  but  such  is  romantic 
life.  His  will,  though  shaken,  is  not  extinguished  by  such 
misadventures.  He  would  continue,  if  life  could  last, 
doing  things  that,  in  some  respect,  he  would  be  obliged 
to  regret :  but  he  would  banish  that  regret  easily,  in  the 
pursuit  of  some  new  interest,  and,  on  the  whole,  he  would 
not  regret  having  been  obliged  to  regret  them.  Otherwise, 
he  would  not  have  shared  the  whole  experience  of  mankind, 
but  missed  the  important  experience  of  self-accusation  and 
of  self-recovery. 

It  is  impossible  to  suppose  that  the  citizens  he  is  establish 
ing  behind  leaky  dykes,  so  that  they  may  always  have 
something  to  keep  them  busy,  would  have  given  him 
unmixed  satisfaction  if  he  could  really  have  foreseen  their 
career  in  its  concrete  details.  Holland  is  an  interesting 
country,  but  hardly  a  spectacle  which  would  long  entrance 
an  idealist  like  Faust,  so  exacting  that  he  has  found  the 
arts  and  sciences  wholly  vain,  domesticity  impossible,  and 
kitchens  and  beer-cellars  beneath  consideration.  The 
career  of  Faust  himself  had  been  far  more  free  and  active 
than  that  of  his  industrious  burghers  could  ever  hope  to  be. 
His  interest  in  establishing  them  is  a  masterful,  irresponsible 
interest.  It  is  one  more  arbitrary  passion,  one  more 
selfish  illusion.  As  he  had  no  conscience  in  his  love,  and 
sought  and  secured  nobody's  happiness,  so  he  has  no 
conscience  in  his  ambition  and  in  his  political  architecture  ; 


but  if  only  his  will  is  done,  he  does  not  ask  whether,  judged 
by  its  fruits,  it  will  be  worth  doing.  As  his  immense 
dejection  at  the  beginning,  when  he  was  a  doctor  in 
his  laboratory,  was  not  founded  on  any  real  misfortune, 
but  on  restlessness  and  a  vague  infinite  ambition,  so  his 
ultimate  satisfaction  in  his  work  is  not  founded  on  any 
good  done,  but  on  a  passionate  wilfulness.  He  calls  the 
things  he  wants  for  others  good,  because  he  now  wants  to 
bestow  it  on  them,  not  because  they  naturally  want  it  for 
themselves.  Incapable  of  sympathy,  he  has  a  momentary 
pleasure  in  policy ;  and  in  the  last  and  "  highest  "  ex 
pression  of  his  will,  in  his  statesmanship  and  supposed  public 
spirit,  he  remains  romantic  and,  if  need  be,  aggressive  and 


IF  we  ask  ourselves  what  was  Emerson's  relation  to  the 
scientific  and  religious  movements  of  his  time,  and  what 
place  he  may  claim  in  the  history  of  opinion,  we  must 
answer  that  he  belonged  very  little  to  the  past,  very  little 
to  the  present,  and  almost  wholly  to  that  abstract  sphere 
into  which  mystical  or  philosophic  aspiration  has  carried  a 
few  men  in  all  ages.  The  religious  tradition  in  which  he 
was  reared  was  that  of  Puritanism,  but  of  a  Puritanism 
which,  retaining  its  moral  intensity  and  metaphysical 
abstraction,  had  minimized  its  doctrinal  expression  and 
become  Unitarian.  Emerson  was  indeed  the  Psyche  of 
Puritanism,  "  the  latest-born  and  fairest  vision  far  "  of 
all  that  "  faded  hierarchy."  A  Puritan  whose  religion 
was  all  poetry,  a  poet  whose  only  pleasure  was  thought, 
he  showed  in  his  life  and  personality  the  meagreness,  the 
constraint,  the  frigid  and  conscious  consecration  which 
belonged  to  his  clerical  ancestors,  while  his  inmost  im 
personal  spirit  ranged  abroad  over  the  fields  of  history 
and  nature,  gathering  what  ideas  it  might,  and  singing  its 
little  snatches  of  inspired  song. 

The  traditional  element  was  thus  rather  an  external  and 
inessential  contribution  to  Emerson's  mind ;  he  had  the 


professional  tinge,  the  decorum,  the  distinction  of  an  old- 
fashioned  divine  ;  he  had  also  the  habit  of  writing  sermons, 
and  he  had  the  national  pride  and  hope  of  a  religious  people 
that  felt  itself  providentially  chosen  to  establish  a  free 
and  godly  commonwealth  in  a  new  world.  For  the  rest, 
he  separated  himself  from  the  ancient  creed  of  the  com 
munity  with  a  sense  rather  of  relief  than  of  regret.  A 
literal  belief  in  Christian  doctrines  repelled  him  as  un- 
spiritual,  as  manifesting  no  understanding  of  the  meaning 
which,  as  allegories,  those  doctrines  might  have  to  a 
philosophic  and  poetical  spirit.  Although,  being  a  clergy 
man,  he  was  at  first  in  the  habit  of  referring  to  the  Bible 
and  its  lessons  as  to  a  supreme  authority,  he  had  no 
instinctive  sympathy  with  the  inspiration  of  either  the 
Old  or  the  New  Testament ;  in  Hafiz  or  Plutarch,  in  Plato 
or  Shakespeare,  he  found  more  congenial  stuff. 

While  he  thus  preferred  to  withdraw,  without  rancour 
and  without  contempt,  from  the  ancient  fellowship  of  the 
church,  he  assumed  an  attitude  hardly  less  cool  and 
deprecatory  toward  the  enthusiasms  of  the  new  era. 
The  national  ideal  of  democracy  and  freedom  had  his  entire 
sympathy ;  he  allowed  himself  to  be  drawn  into  the 
movement  against  slavery  ;  he  took  a  curious  and  smiling 
interest  in  the  discoveries  of  natural  science  and  in  the 
material  progress  of  the  age.  But  he  could  go  no  further. 
His  contemplative  nature,  his  religious  training,  his 
dispersed  reading,  made  him  stand  aside  from  the  life  of 
the  world,  even  while  he  studied  it  with  benevolent  atten 
tion.  His  heart  was  fixed  on  eternal  things,  and  he  was 
in  no  sense  a  prophet  for  his  age  or  country.  He  belonged 
by  nature  to  that  mystical  company  of  devout  souls  that 
recognize  no  particular  home  and  are  dispersed  throughout 
history,  although  not  without  intercommunication.  He 
felt  his  affinity  to  the  Hindoos  and  the  Persians,  to  the 
Platonists  and  the  Stoics.  Yet  he  was  a  shrewd  Yankee, 
by  instinct  on  the  winning  side  ;  he  was  a  cheery,  child-like 
soul,  impervious  to  the  evidence  of  evil,  as  of  everything 
that  it  did  not  suit  his  transcendental  individuality  to 
appreciate  or  to  notice.  More,  perhaps,  than  anybody 
that  has  ever  lived,  he  practised  the  transcendental  method 
in  all  its  purity.  He  had  no  system.  He  opened  his  eyes 


on  the  world  every  morning  with  a  fresh  sincerity,  marking 
how  things  seemed  to  him  then,  or  what  they  suggested  to 
his  spontaneous  fancy.  This  fancy,  for  being  spontaneous, 
was  not  always  novel ;  it  was  guided  by  the  habits  and 
training  of  his  mind,  which  were  those  of  a  preacher. 
Yet  he  never  insisted  on  his  notions  so  as  to  turn  them  into 
settled  dogmas  ;  he  felt  in  his  bones  that  they  were  myths. 
Sometimes,  indeed,  the  bad  example  of  other  transcenden- 
talists,  less  true  than  he  to  their  method,  or  the  pressing 
questions  of  unintelligent  people,  or  the  instinct  we  all 
have  to  think  our  ideas  final,  led  him  to  the  very  verge 
of  system-making  ;  but  he  stopped  short.  Had  he  made 
a  system  out  of  his  notion  of  compensation,  or  the  over-soul, 
or  spiritual  laws,  the  result  would  have  been  as  thin  and 
forced  as  it  is  in  other  transcendental  systems.  But  he 
coveted  truth  ;  and  he  returned  to  experience,  to  history, 
to  poetry,  to  the  natural  science  of  his  day,  for  new  starting- 
points  and  hints  toward  fresh  transcendental  musings. 

To  covet  truth  is  a  very  distinguished  passion.  Every 
philosopher  says  he  is  pursuing  the  truth,  but  this  is  seldom 
the  case.  As  a  philosopher  has  observed,  one  reason  why 
philosophers  often  fail  to  reach  the  truth  is  that  often  they 
do  not  desire  to  reach  it.  Those  who  are  genuinely  con 
cerned  in  discovering  what  happens  to  be  true  are  rather 
the  men  of  science,  the  naturalists,  the  historians ;  and 
ordinarily  they  discover  it,  according  to  their  lights.  The 
truths  they  find  are  never  complete,  and  are  not  always 
important ;  but  they  are  integral  parts  of  the  truth,  facts 
and  circumstances  that  help  to  fill  in  the  picture,  and  that 
no  later  interpretation  can  invalidate  or  afford  to  con 
tradict.  But  professional  philosophers  are  usually  only 
apologists :  that  is,  they  are  absorbed  in  defending  some 
vested  illusion  or  some  eloquent  idea.  Like  lawyers  or 
detectives,  they  study  the  case  for  which  they  are  retained, 
to  see  how  much  evidence  or  semblance  of  evidence  they 
can  gather  for  the  defence,  and  how  much  prejudice  they 
can  raise  against  the  witnesses  for  the  prosecution ;  for 
they  know  they  are  defending  prisoners  suspected  by  the 
world,  and  perhaps  by  their  own  good  sense,  of  falsification. 
They  do  not  covet  truth,  but  victory  and  the  dispelling  of 
their  own  doubts.  What  they  defend  is  some  system, 


that  is,  some  view  about  the  totality  of  things,  of  which 
men  are  actually  ignorant.  No  system  would  have  ever 
been  framed  if  people  had  been  simply  interested  in  knowing 
what  is  true,  whatever  it  may  be.  What  produces  systems 
is  the  interest  in  maintaining  against  all  comers  that  some 
favourite  or  inherited  idea  of  ours  is  sufficient  and  right. 
A  system  may  contain  an  account  of  many  things  which, 
in  detail,  are  true  enough  ;  but  as  a  system,  covering 
infinite  possibilities  that  neither  our  experience  nor  our 
logic  can  prejudge,  it  must  be  a  work  of  imagination  and 
a  piece  of  human  soliloquy.  It  may  be  expressive  of 
human  experience,  it  may  be  poetical ;  but  how  should 
any  one  who  really  coveted  truth  suppose  that  it  was 
true  ? 

Emerson  had  no  system  ;  and  his  coveting  truth  had 
another  exceptional  consequence ;  he  was  detached, 
unworldly,  contemplative.  When  he  came  out  of  the 
conventicle  or  the  reform  meeting,  or  out  of  the  rapturous 
close  atmosphere  of  the  lecture-room,  he  heard  nature 
whispering  to  him  :  "  Why  so  hot,  little  sir  ?  "  No  doubt 
the  spirit  or  energy  of  the  world  is  what  is  acting  in  us, 
as  the  sea  is  what  rises  in  every  little  wave  ;  but  it  passes 
through  us,  and  cry  out  as  we  may,  it  will  move  on.  Our 
privilege  is  to  have  perceived  it  as  it  moves.  Our  dignity 
is  not  in  what  we  do,  but  in  what  we  understand.  The 
whole  world  is  doing  things.  We  are  turning  in  that 
vortex ;  yet  within  us  is  silent  observation,  the  specu 
lative  eye  before  which  all  passes,  which  bridges  the 
distances  and  compares  the  combatants.  On  this  side 
of  his  genius  Emerson  broke  away  from  all  conditions  of 
age  or  country  and  represented  nothing  except  intelligence 

There  was  another  element  in  Emerson,  curiously 
combined  with  transcendentalism,  namely,  his  love  and 
respect  for  nature.  Nature,  for  the  transcendentalist, 
is  precious  because  it  is  his  own  work,  a  mirror  in  which 
he  looks  at  himself  and  says  (like  a  poet  relishing  his  own 
verses),  "  What  a  genius  I  am  !  Who  would  have  thought 
there  was  such  stuff  in  me  ?  "  And  the  philosophical 
egotist  finds  in  his  doctrine  a  ready  explanation  of  what 
ever  beauty  and  commodity  nature  actually  has.  No 


wonder,  he  says  to  himself,  that  nature  is  sympathetic, 
since  I  made  it.  And  such  a  view,  one-sided  and  even 
fatuous  as  it  may  be,  undoubtedly  sharpens  the  vision  of 
a  poet  and  a  moralist  to  all  that  is  inspiriting  and  symbolic 
in  the  natural  world.  Emerson  was  particularly  ingenious 
and  clear-sighted  in  feeling  the  spiritual  uses  of  fellowship 
with  the  elements.  This  is  something  in  which  all  Teutonic 
poetry  is  rich  and  which  forms,  I  think,  the  most  genuine 
and  spontaneous  part  of  modern  taste,  and  especially  of 
American  taste.  Just  as  some  people  are  naturally 
enthralled  and  refreshed  by  music,  so  others  are  by 
landscape.  Music  and  landscape  make  up  the  spiritual 
resources  of  those  who  cannot  or  dare  not  express  their 
unfulfilled  ideals  in  words.  Serious  poetry,  profound 
religion  (Calvinism,  for  instance),  are  the  joys  of  an  un- 
happiness  that  confesses  itself ;  but  when  a  genteel 
tradition  forbids  people  to  confess  that  they  are  unhappy, 
serious  poetry  and  profound  religion  are  closed  to  them  by 
that ;  and  since  human  life,  in  its  depths,  cannot  then 
express  itself  openly,  imagination  is  driven  for  comfort 
into  abstract  arts,  where  human  circumstances  are  lost 
sight  of,  and  human  problems  dissolve  in  a  purer  medium. 
The  pressure  of  care  is  thus  relieved,  without  its  quietus 
being  found  in  intelligence.  To  understand  oneself  is  the 
classic  form  of  consolation  ;  to  elude  oneself  is  the  romantic. 
In  the  presence  of  music  or  landscape  human  experience 
eludes  itself ;  and  thus  romanticism  is  the  bond  between 
transcendental  and  naturalistic  sentiment.  The  winds 
and  clouds  come  to  minister  to  the  solitary  ego. 


SHELLEY  seems  hardly  to  have  been  brought  up ;  he 
grew  up  in  the  nursery  among  his  young  sisters,  at  school 
among  the  rude  boys,  without  any  affectionate  guidance, 
without  imbibing  any  religious  or  social  tradition.  If 
he  received  any  formal  training  or  correction,  he  instantly 
rejected  it  inwardly,  set  it  down  as  unjust  and  absurd, 


and  turned  instead  to  sailing  paper  boats,  to  reading 
romances  or  to  writing  them,  or  to  watching  with  delight 
the  magic  of  chemical  experiments.  Thus  the  mind  of 
Shelley  was  thoroughly  disinherited ;  but  not,  like  the 
minds  of  most  revolutionists,  by  accident  and  through 
the  niggardliness  of  fortune,  for  few  revolutionists  would 
be  such  if  they  were  heirs  to  a  baronetcy.  Shelley's  mind 
disinherited  itself  out  of  allegiance  to  itself,  because  it 
was  too  sensitive  and  too  highly  endowed  for  the  world 
into  which  it  had  descended.  It  rejected  ordinary  educa 
tion,  because  it  was  incapable  of  assimilating  it.  Educa 
tion  is  suitable  to  those  few  animals  whose  faculties  are 
not  completely  innate,  animals  that,  like  most  men,  may 
be  perfected  by  experience  because  they  are  born  with 
various  imperfect  alternative  instincts  rooted  equally  in 
their  system.  But  most  animals,  and  a  few  men,  are  not 
of  this  sort.  They  cannot  be  educated,  because  they  are 
born  complete.  Full  of  predeterminate  intuitions,  they 
are  without  intelligence,  which  is  the  power  of  seeing 
things  as  they  are.  Endowed  with  a  specific,  unshakable 
faith,  they  are  impervious  to  experience  :  and  as  they 
burst  the  womb  they  bring  ready-made  with  them  their 
final  and  only  possible  system  of  philosophy. 

Love  of  the  ideal,  passionate  apprehension  of  what 
ought  to  be,  has  for  its  necessary  counterpart  condemna 
tion  of  the  actual,  wherever  the  actual  does  not  conform  to 
that  ideal.  The  spontaneous  soul,  the  soul  of  the  child, 
is  naturally  revolutionary  ;  and  when  the  revolution  fails, 
the  soul  of  the  youth  becomes  naturally  pessimistic.  All 
moral  life  and  moral  judgment  have  this  deeply  romantic 
character ;  they  venture  to  assert  a  private  ideal  in  the 
face  of  an  intractable  and  omnipotent  world.  Some 
moralists  begin  by  feeling  the  attraction  of  untasted  and 
ideal  perfection.  These,  like  Plato,  excel  in  elevation, 
and  they  are  apt  to  despise  rather  than  to  reform  the 
world.  Other  moralists  begin  by  a  revolt  against  the 
actual,  at  some  point  where  they  find  the  actual  par 
ticularly  galling.  These  excel  in  sincerity;  their  pur 
blind  conscience  is  urgent,  and  they  are  reformers  in 
intent  and  sometimes  even  in  action.  But  the  ideals 
they  frame  are  fragmentary  and  shallow,  often  mere 


provisional  vague  watchwords,  like  liberty,  equality,  and 
fraternity ;  they  possess  no  positive  visions  or  plans 
for  moral  life  as  a  whole,  like  Plato's  Republic. 

Shelley  was  one  of  these  spokesmen  of  the  a  priori,  one 
of  these  nurslings  of  the  womb,  like  a  bee  or  a  butterfly  ; 
a  dogmatic,  inspired,  perfect,  and  incorrigible  creature. 
He  was  innocent  and  cruel,  swift  and  wayward,  illuminated 
and  blind.  Being  a  finished  child  of  nature,  not  a  joint 
product,  like  most  of  us,  of  nature,  history,  and  society, 
he  abounded  miraculously  in  his  own  clear  sense,  but  was 
obtuse  to  the  droll,  miscellaneous  lessons  of  fortune. 
The  cannonade  of  hard,  inexplicable  facts  that  knocks 
into  most  of  us  what  little  wisdom  we  have  left  Shelley 
dazed  and  sore,  perhaps,  but  uninstructed.  When  the 
storm  was  over,  he  began  chirping  again  his  own  natural 
note.  If  the  world  continued  to  confine  and  beset  him, 
he  hated  the  world,  and  gasped  for  freedom.  Being 
incapable  of  understanding  reality,  he  revelled  in  creating 
world  after  world  in  idea.  For  his  nature  was  not  merely 
predetermined  and  obdurate,  it  was  also  sensitive,  vehe 
ment,  and  fertile.  With  the  soul  of  a  bird,  he  had  the 
senses  of  a  man-child  ;  the  instinct  of  the  butterfly  was 
united  in  him  with  the  instinct  of  the  brooding  fowl  and 
of  the  pelican.  This  winged  spirit  had  a  heart.  It  darted 
swiftly  on  its  appointed  course,  neither  expecting  nor 
understanding  opposition ;  but  when  it  met  opposition 
it  did  not  merely  flutter  and  collapse ;  it  was  inwardly 
outraged,  it  protested  proudly  against  fate,  it  cried  aloud 
for  liberty  and  justice. 

The  consequence  was  that  Shelley,  having  a  nature 
preformed  but  at  the  same  time  tender,  passionate,  and 
moral,  was  exposed  to  early  and  continual  suffering. 
When  the  world  violated  the  ideal  which  lay  so  clear 
before  his  eyes,  that  violation  filled  him  with  horror.  If 
to  the  irrepressible  gushing  of  life  from  within  we  add 
the  suffering  and  horror  that  continually  checked  it, 
we  shall  have  in  hand,  I  think,  the  chief  elements  of 
his  genius. 



THE  great  dramatists  have  seldom  dealt  with  perfectly 
virtuous  characters.  The  great  poets  have  seldom  repre 
sented  mythologies  that  would  bear  scientific  criticism. 
But  by  an  instinct  which  constituted  their  greatness  they 
have  cast  these  mixed  materials  furnished  by  life  into 
forms  congenial  to  the  specific  principles  of  their  art,  and 
by  this  transformation  they  have  made  acceptable  in 
the  aesthetic  sphere  things  that  in  the  sphere  of  reality 
were  evil  or  imperfect :  in  a  word,  their  works  have  been 
beautiful  as  works  of  art.  Or,  if  their  genius  exceeded 
that  of  the  technical  poet  and  rose  to  prophetic  intuition, 
they  have  known  how  to  create  ideal  characters,  not 
possessed,  perhaps,  of  every  virtue  accidentally  needed 
in  this  world,  but  possessed  of  what  is  ideally  better,  of 
internal  greatness  and  perfection.  .They  have  also  known 
how  to  select  and  reconstruct  their  mythology  so  as  to 
make  it  a  true  interpretation  of  moral  life.  When  we 
read  the  maxims  of  lago,  Falstaff,  or  Hamlet,  we  are 
delighted  if  the  thought  strikes  us  as  true,  but  we  are 
not  less  delighted  if  it  strikes  us  as  false.  These  characters 
are  not  presented  to  us  in  order  to  enlarge  our  capacities 
of  passion  nor  in  order  to  justify  themselves  as  processes 
of  redemption  ;  they  are  there,  clothed  in  poetry  and 
imbedded  in  plot,  to  entertain  us  with  their  imaginable 
feelings  and  their  interesting  errors.  Shakespeare,  without 
being  especially  a  philosopher,  stands  by  virtue  of  his 
superlative  genius  on  the  plane  of  universal  reason,  far 
above  the  passionate  experience  which  he  overlooks  and 
on  which  he  reflects  ;  and  he  raises  us  for  the  moment  to 
his  own  level,  to  send  us  back  again,  if  not  better  endowed 
for  practical  life,  at  least  not  unacquainted  with  speculation. 
With  Browning  the  case  is  essentially  different.  When 
his  heroes  are  blinded  by  passion  and  warped  by  circum 
stance,  as  they  almost  always  are,  he  does  not  describe 
the  fact  from  the  vantage-ground  of  the  intellect  and 
invite  us  to  look  at  it  from  that  point  of  view.  On  the 


contrary,  his  art  is  all  self-expression  or  satire.  For  the 
most  part  his  hero,  like  Whitman's,  is  himself ;  not  appear 
ing,  as  in  the  case  of  the  American  bard,  in  puns  naturalibus, 
but  masked  in  all  sorts  of  historical  and  romantic  finery. 
Sometimes,  however,  the  personage,  like  Guido  in  "  The 
Ring  and  the  Book  "  or  the  "  frustrate  ghosts  "  of  other 
poems,  is  merely  a  Marsyas,  shown  flayed  and  quivering 
to  the  greater  glory  of  the  poet's  ideal  Apollo.  The  im 
pulsive  utterances  and  the  crudities  of  most  of  the  speakers 
are  passionately  adopted  by  the  poet  as  his  own.  He 
thus  perverts  what  might  have  been  a  triumph  of  imagina 
tion  into  a  failure  of  reason. 

This  circumstance  has  much  to  do  with  the  fact  that 
Browning,  in  spite  of  his  extraordinary  gift  for  expressing 
emotion,  has  hardly  produced  works  purely  and  uncon 
ditionally  delightful.  They  not  only  portray  passion, 
which  is  interesting,  but  they  betray  it,  which  is  odious. 
His  art  was  still  in  the  service  of  the  will.  He  had  not 
attained,  in  studying  the  beauty  of  things,  that  detach 
ment  of  the  phenomenon,  that  love  of  the  form  for  its  own 
sake,  which  is  the  secret  of  contemplative  satisfaction. 
Therefore,  the  lamentable  accidents  of  his  personality 
and  opinions,  in  themselves  no  worse  than  those  of  other 
mortals,  passed  into  his  art.  He  did  not  seek  to  elude 
them  :  he  had  no  free  speculative  faculty  to  dominate 
them  by.  Or,  to  put  the  same  thing  differently,  he  was 
too  much  in  earnest  in  his  fictions,  he  threw  himself  too 
unreservedly  into  his  creations.  His  imagination,  like  the 
imagination  we  have  in  dreams,  was  merely  a  vent  for 
personal  preoccupations.  His  art  was  inspired  by  purposes 
less  simple  and  universal  than  the  ends  of  imagination 
itself.  His  play  of  mind  consequently  could  not  be  free 
or  pure.  The  creative  impulse  could  not  reach  its  goal 
or  manifest  in  any  notable  degree  its  own  ingenuous  ideal. 

Browning,  who  had  not  had  the  education  traditional 
in  his  own  country,  used  to  say  that  Italy  had  been  his 
university.  But  it  was  a  school  for  which  he  was  ill 
prepared,  and  he  did  not  sit  under  its  best  teachers.  For 
the  superficial  ferment,  the  worldly  passions,  and  'the 
crimes  of  the  Italian  Renaissance  he  had  a  keen  interest 
and  intelligence.  But  Italy  has  been  always  a  civilized 


country,  and  beneath  the  trappings  and  suits  of  civiliza 
tion  which  at  that  particular  time  it  flaunted  so  gaily,  it 
preserved  a  civilized  heart  to  which  Browning's  insight 
could  never  penetrate.  There  subsisted  in  the  best  minds 
a  trained  imagination  and  a  cogent  ideal  of  virtue.  Italy 
had  a  religion,  and  that  religion  permeated  all  its  life, 
and  was  the  background  without  which  even  its  secular 
art  and  secular  passions  would  not  be  truly  intelligible. 
The  most  commanding  and  representative,  the  deepest  and 
most  appealing  of  Italian  natures  are  permeated  with  this 
religious  inspiration.  A  Saint  Francis,  a  Dante,  a  Michael 
Angelo,  breathe  hardly  anything  else.  Yet  for  Browning  these 
men  and  what  they  represented  may  be  said  not  to  have 
existed.  He  saw,  he  studied,  and  he  painted  a  decapitated 
Italy.  His  vision  could  not  mount  so  high  as  her  head. 

One  of  the  elements  of  that  higher  tradition  which 
Browning  was  not  prepared  to  imbibe  was  the  idealization 
of  love.  The  passion  he  represents  is  lava  hot  from  the 
crater,  in  no  way  moulded,  smelted,  or  refined.  He  had 
no  thought  of  subjugating  impulses  into  the  harmony  of 
reason.  He  did  not  master  life,  but  was  mastered  by  it. 
Accordingly  the  love  he  describes  has  no  wings  ;  it  issues 
in  nothing.  His  lovers  "  extinguish  sight  and  speech, 
each  on  each  "  ;  sense,  as  he  says  elsewhere,  drowning 
soul.  The  man  in  the  gondola  may  well  boast  that  he  can 
die  ;  it  is  the  only  thing  he  can  properly  do.  Death  is  the 
only  solution  of  a  love  that  is  tied  to  its  individual  object 
and  inseparable  from  the  alloy  of  passion  and  illusion 
within  itself.  Browning's  hero,  because  he  has  loved 
intensely,  says  that  he  has  lived  ;  he  would  be  right,  if 
the  significance  of  life  were  to  be  measured  by  the  inten 
sity  of  the  feeling  it  contained,  and  if  intelligence  were 
not  the  highest  form  of  vitality.  But  had  that  hero 
known  how  to  love  better  and  had  he  had  enough  spirit 
to  dominate  his  love,  he  might  perhaps  have  been  able  to 
carry  away  the  better  part  of  it  and  to  say  that  he  could 
not  die  ;  for  one  half  of  himself  and  of  his  love  would 
have  been  dead  already  and  the  other  half  would  have 
been  eternal,  having  fed — 

On  death,  that  feeds  on  men  ; 
And  death  once  dead,  there's  no  more  dying  then. 


The  irrationality  of  the  passions  which  Browning 
glorifies,  making  them  the  crown  of  life,  is  so  gross  that 
at  times  he  cannot  help  perceiving  it. 

How  perplexed 
Grows  belief !     Well,  this  cold  clay  clod 

Was  man's  heart  : 
Crumble  it,  and  what  comes  next  ?     Is  it  God  ? 

Yes,  he  will  tell  us.  These  passions  and  follies,  however 
desperate  in  themselves  and  however  vain  for  the  individual, 
are  excellent  as  parts  of  the  dispensation  of  Providence  : — 

Be  hate  that  fruit  or  love  that  fruit, 
It  forwards  the  general  deed  of  man, 
And  each  of  the  many  helps  to  recruit 
The  life  of  the  race  by  a  general  plan, 
Each  living  his  own  to  boot. 

If  we  doubt,  then,  the  value  of  our  own  experience, 
even  perhaps  of  our  experience  of  love,  we  may  appeal 
to  the  interdependence  of  goods  and  evils  in  the  world  to 
assure  ourselves  that,  in  view  of  its  consequences  elsewhere, 
this  experience  was  great  and  important  after  all.  We 
need  not  stop  to  consider  this  supposed  solution,  which 
bristles  with  contradictions  ;  it  would  not  satisfy  Browning 
himself,  if  he  did  not  back  it  up  with  something  more  to 
his  purpose,  something  nearer  to  warm  and  transitive 
feeling.  The  compensation  for  our  defeats,  the  answer 
to  our  doubts,  is  not  to  be  found  merely  in  a  proof  of  the 
essential  necessity  and  perfection  of  the  universe ;  that 
would  be  cold  comfort,  especially  to  so  uncontemplative 
a  mind.  No  :  that  answer  and  compensation  are  to  come 
very  soon  and  very  vividly  to  every  private  bosom.  There 
is  another  life,  a  series  of  other  lives,  for  this  to  happen  in. 
Death  will  come,  and — 

I  shall  thereupon 
Take  rest,  ere  I  be  gone 
Once  more  on  my  adventure  brave  and  new, 
Fearless  and  unperplexed, 
When  I  wage  battle  next, 
What  weapons  to  select,  what  armour  to  endue. 



For  sudden  the  worst  turns  the  best  to  the  brave, 

The  black  minute's  at  end, 
And  the  element's  rage,  the  fiend-voices  that  rave 

Shall  dwindle,  shall  blend. 
Shall  change,  shall  become  first  a  peace  out  of  pain, 

Then  a  light,  then  thy  breast, 
O  thou  soul  of  my  soul !     I  shall  clasp  thee  again 

And  with  God  be  the  rest ! 

Into  this  conception  of  continued  life  Browning  has 
put  all  the  items  furnished  by  fancy  or  tradition  which 
at  the  moment  satisfied  his  imagination — new  adventures, 
reunion  with  friends,  and  even,  after  a  severe  strain  and 
for  a  short  while,  a  little  peace  and  quiet.  The  gist  of 
the  matter  is  that  we  are  to  live  indefinitely,  that  all  our 
faults  can  be  turned  to  good,  all  our  unfinished  business 
settled,  and  that  therefore  there  is  time  for  anything  we 
like  in  this  world  and  for  all  we  need  in  the  other.  It 
is  in  spirit  the  direct  opposite  of  the  philosophic  maxim 
of  regarding  the  end,  of  taking  care  to  leave  a  finished 
life  and  a  perfect  character  behind  us.  It  is  the  opposite, 
also,  of  the  religious  memento  mori,  of  the  warning  that 
the  time  is  short  before  we  go  to  our  account.  According 
to  Browning,  there  is  no  account :  we  have  an  infinite 
credit.  With  an  unconscious  and  characteristic  mixture 
of  heathen  instinct  with  Christian  doctrine,  he  thinks  of 
the  other  world  as  heaven,  but  of  the  life  to  be  led  there 
as  of  the  life  of  nature. 

Aristotle  observes  that  we  do  not  think  the  business 
of  life  worthy  of  the  gods,  to  whom  we  can  only  attri 
bute  contemplation  ;  if  Browning  had  had  the  idea  of 
perfecting  and  rationalizing  this  life  rather  than  of  con 
tinuing  it  indefinitely,  he  would  have  followed  Aristotle 
and  the  church  in  this  matter.  But  he  had  no  idea  of 
anything  eternal ;  and  so  he  gave,  as  he  would  probably 
have  said,  a  filling  to  the  empty  Christian  immortality 
by  making  every  man  busy  in  it  about  many  things. 
And  to  the  irrational  man,  to  the  boy,  it  is  no  unpleasant 
idea  to  have  an  infinite  number  of  days  to  live  through, 
an  infinite  number  of  dinners  to  eat,  with  an  infinity  of 
fresh  fights  and  new  love-affairs,  and  no  end  of  last  rides 

But  it  is  a  mere   euphemism   to   call  this  perpetual 


vagrancy  a  development  of  the  soul.  A  development 
means  the  unfolding  of  a  definite  nature,  the  gradual 
manifestation  of  a  known  idea.  A  series  of  phases,  like 
the  successive  leaps  of  a  waterfall,  is  no  development. 
And  Browning  has  no  idea  of  an  intelligible  good  which 
the  phases  of  life  might  approach  and  with  reference  to 
which  they  might  constitute  a  progress.  His  notion  is 
simply  that  the  game  of  life,  the  exhilaration  of  action, 
is  inexhaustible.  You  may  set  up  your  tenpins  again 
after  you  have  bowled  them  over,  and  you  may  keep 
up  the  sport  for  ever.  The  point  is  to  bring  them  down 
as  often  as  possible  with  a  master-stroke  and  a  big  bang. 
That  will  tend  to  invigorate  in  you  that  self-confidence 
which  in  this  system  passes  for  faith.  But  it  is  unmeaning 
to  call  such  an  exercise  heaven,  or  to  talk  of  being  "  with 
God  "  in  such  a  life,  in  any  sense  in  which  we  are  not  with 
God  already  and  under  all  circumstances.  Our  destiny 
would  rather  be,  as  Browning  himself  expresses  it  in  a 
phrase  which  Attila  or  Alaric  might  have  composed, 
"  bound  dizzily  to  the  wheel  of  change  to  slake  the  thirst 
of  God." 

Such  an  optimism  and  such  a  doctrine  of  immortality 
can  give  no  justification  to  experience  which  it  does  not 
already  have  in  its  detached  parts.  Indeed,  those  dogmas 
are  not  the  basis  of  Browning's  attitude,  not  conditions 
of  his  satisfaction  in  living,  but  rather  overflowings  of  that 
satisfaction.  The  present  life  is  presumably  a  fair  average 
of  the  whole  series  of  "  adventures  brave  and  new  "  which 
fall  to  each  man's  share ;  were  it  not  found  delightful  in 
itself,  there  would  be  no  motive  for  imagining  and  asserting 
that  it  is  reproduced  in  infinitum.  So  too  if  we  did  not 
think  that  the  evil  in  experience  is  actually  utilized  and 
visibly  swallowed  up  in  its  good  effects,  we  should  hardly 
venture  to  think  that  God  could  have  regarded  as  a  good 
something  which  has  evil  for  its  condition  and  which  is 
for  that  reason  profoundly  sad  and  equivocal.  But 
Browning's  philosophy  of  life  and  habit  of  imagination 
do  not  require  the  support  of  any  metaphysical  theory. 
His  temperament  is  perfectly  self-sufficient  and  primary ; 
what  doctrines  he  has  are  suggested  by  it  and  are  too 
loose  to  give  it  more  than  a  hesitant  expression  ;  they  are 


quite  powerless  to  give  it  any  justification  which  it  might 
lack  on  its  face. 

It  is  the  temperament,  then,  that  speaks ;  we  may 
brush  aside  as  unsubstantial,  and  even  as  distorting,  the 
web  of  arguments  and  theories  which  it  has  spun  out  of 
itself.  And  what  does  the  temperament  say  ?  That 
life  is  an  adventure,  not  a  discipline ;  that  the  exercise 
of  energy  is  the  absolute  good,  irrespective  of  motives  or 
of  consequences.  These  are  the  maxims  of  a  frank  bar 
barism  ;  nothing  could  express  better  the  lust  of  life, 
the  dogged  unwillingness  to  learn  from  experience,  the 
contempt  for  rationality,  the  carelessness  about  perfection, 
the  admiration  for  mere  force,  in  which  barbarism  always 
betrays  itself.  The  vague  religion  which  seeks  to  justify 
this  attitude  is  really  only  another  outburst  of  the  same 
irrational  impulse. 

In  Browning  this  religion  takes  the  name  of  Christianity, 
and  identifies  itself  with  one  or  two  Christian  ideas 
arbitrarily  selected ;  but  at  heart  it  has  far  more  affinity 
to  the  worship  of  Thor  or  of  Odin  than  to  the  religion  of 
the  Cross.  The  zest  of  life  becomes  a  cosmic  emotion  ; 
we  lump  the  whole  together  and  cry,  "  Hurrah  for  the 
Universe  !  "  A  faith  which  is  thus  a  pure  matter  of 
lustiness  and  inebriation  rises  and  falls,  attracts  or  repels, 
with  the  ebb  and  flow  of  the  mood  from  which  it  springs. 
It  is  invincible  because  unseizable ;  it  is  as  safe  from 
refutation  as  it  is  rebellious  to  embodiment.  But  it 
cannot  enlighten  or  correct  the  passions  on  which  it  feeds. 
Like  a  servile  priest,  it  flatters  them  in  the  name  of  Heaven. 
It  cloaks  irrationality  in  sanctimony  ;  and  its  admiration 
for  every  bluff  folly,  being  thus  justified  by  a  theory, 
becomes  a  positive  fanaticism,  eager  to  defend  any  way 
ward  impulse. 


NIETZSCHE  was  personally  more  philosophical  than  his 
philosophy.  His  talk  about  power,  harshness,  and  superb 
immorality  was  the  hobby  of  a  harmless  young  scholar 


and  constitutional  invalid.  He  did  not  crave  in  the  least 
either  wealth  or  empire.  What  he  loved  was  solitude, 
nature,  music,  books.  But  his  imagination,  like  his  judg 
ment,  was  captious ;  it  could  not  dwell  on  reality,  but 
reacted  furiously  against  it.  Accordingly,  when  he  speaks 
of  the  will  to  be  powerful,  power  is  merely  an  eloquent 
word  on  his  lips.  It  symbolizes  the  escape  from  medio 
crity.  What  power  would  be  when  attained  and  exercised 
remains  entirely  beyond  his  horizon.  What  meets  us  every 
where  is  the  sense  of  impotence  and  a  passionate  rebellion 
against  it. 

That  there  is  no  God  is  proved  by  Nietzsche  pragmatic 
ally,  on  the  ground  that  belief  in  the  existence  of  God 
would  have  made  him  uncomfortable.  Not  at  all  for  the 
reason  that  might  first  occur  to  us  :  to  imagine  himself 
a  lost  soul  has  always  been  a  point  of  pride  with  the 
romantic  genius.  The  reason  was  that  if  there  had  been 
any  gods  he  would  have  found  it  intolerable  not  to  be  a  god 
himself.  Poor  Nietzsche  !  The  laurels  of  the  Almighty 
would  not  let  him  sleep. 

It  is  hard  to  know  if  we  should  be  more  deceived  in 
taking  these  sallies  seriously  or  in  not  taking  them  so.  On 
the  one  hand  it  all  seems  the  swagger  of  an  immature,  half- 
playful  mind,  like  a  child  that  tells  you  he  will  cut  your 
head  off.  The  dreamy  impulse,  in  its  inception,  is  sincere 
enough,  but  there  is  no  vestige  of  any  understanding  of 
what  it  proposes,  of  its  conditions,  or  of  its  results.  On 
the  other  hand  these  explosions  are  symptomatic ;  there 
stirs  behind  them  unmistakably  an  elemental  force.  That 
an  attitude  is  foolish,  incoherent,  disastrous,  proves  nothing 
against  the  depth  of  the  instinct  that  inspires  it.  Who 
could  be  more  intensely  unintelligent  than  Luther  or 
Rousseau  ?  Yet  the  world  followed  them,  not  to  turn  back. 
The  molecular  forces  of  society,  so  to  speak,  had  already 
undermined  the  systems  which  these  men  denounced. 
If  the  systems  have  survived  it  is  only  because  the  re 
formers,  in  their  intellectual  helplessness,  could  supply 
nothing  to  take  their  place.  So  Nietzsche,  in  his  genial 
imbecility,  betrays  the  shifting  of  great  subterranean 
forces.  What  he  said  may  be  nothing,  but  the  fact  that 
he  said  it  is  all-important.  Out  of  such  wild  intuitions, 


because  the  heart  of  the  child  was  in  them,  the  man  of  the 
future  may  have  to  build  his  philosophy.  We  should 
forgive  Nietzsche  his  boyish  blasphemies.  He  hated  with 
clearness,  if  he  did  not  know  what  to  love. 


BOTH  Christianity  and  romanticism  accustomed  people 
to  disregard  the  intrinsic  value  of  things.  Things  ought 
to  be  useful  for  salvation,  or  symbols  of  other  greater  but 
unknown  things  :  it  was  not  to  be  expected  that  they 
should  be  simply  good  in  themselves.  This  life  was  to  be 
justified,  if  justified  at  all,  only  as  servile  work  or  tedious 
business  may  be  justified,  not  as  health  or  artistic  expres 
sion  justify  themselves.  Unless  some  external  and  ulterior 
end  could  be  achieved  by  living,  it  was  thought  that  life 
would  be  vanity.  Remove  now  the  expectation  of  a 
millennium  or  of  a  paradise  in  the  sky,  and  it  may  seem 
that  all  serious  value  has  disappeared  from  our  earthly 
existence.  Yet  this  feeling  is  only  a  temporary  after 
image  of  a  particular  education. 

The  romantic  poets,  through  pride,  restlessness,  and 
longing  for  vague  impossible  things,  came  to  the  same 
conclusion  that  the  church  had  reached  through  censorious- 
ness  and  hope.  To  be  always  dissatisfied  seemed  to  that 
Faust-like  age  a  mark  of  loftiness.  To  be  dissatisfied  is, 
indeed,  a  healthy  and  promising  thing,  when  what  troubles 
us  can  be  set  right ;  but  the  romantic  mind  despises  such 
incidental  improvements  which  far  from  freeing  the  wild 
egotistical  soul  would  rather  fatten  and  harness  it.  It  is 
beneath  the  romantic  pessimist  to  remember  that  people, 
in  all  ages,  sometimes  achieve  what  they  have  set  their 
hearts  on,  and  that  if  human  will  and  conduct  were  better 
disciplined,  this  contentment  would  be  more  frequent  and 
more  massive.  On  the  contrary,  he  asserts  that  willing 
is  always  and  everywhere  abortive. 

How  can  he  persuade  himself  of  something  so  evidently 
false  ?  By  that  mystical  misinterpretation  of  human  nature 


which  is  perhaps  the  core  of  romanticism.  He  imagines 
that  what  is  desired  is  not  this  or  that — food,  children, 
victory,  knowledge,  or  some  other  specific  goal  of  a  human 
instinct — but  an  abstract  and  perpetual  happiness  behind 
all  these  alternating  interests.  Of  course  an  abstract 
and  perpetual  happiness  is  impossible,  not  merely  because 
events  are  sure  to  disturb  any  equilibrium  we  may  think 
we  have  established  in  our  lives,  but  for  the  far  more 
fundamental  reason  that  we  have  no  abstract  and  per 
petual  instinct  to  satisfy.  The  desire  for  self-preservation 
or  power  or  union  with  God  is  no  more  perpetual  or  com 
prehensive  than  any  other :  it  is  commonly  when  we  are 
in  straits  that  we  become  aware  of  such  objects,  and  to 
achieve  them,  or  imagine  we  achieve  them,  will  give  us 
only  a  momentary  satisfaction,  like  any  other  success. 
A  highest  good  to  be  obtained  apart  from  each  and  every 
specific  interest  is  more  than  unattainable  ;  it  is  unthink 
able.  The  romanticist,  chasing  wilfully  that  ignis  fatuus, 
naturally  finds  his  life  arduous  and  disappointing.  But 
he  might  have  learned  from  Plato  or  any  sound  moralist, 
if  his  genius  could  allow  him  to  learn  anything,  that  the 
highest  good  of  man  is  the  sum  and  harmony  of  those 
specific  goods  upon  which  his  nature  is  directed.  But 
because  the  romantic  will  was  unteachable,  all  will  was 
declared  to  be  foolish. 


SCHOPENHAUER  somewhere  observes  that  the  word  heathen, 
no  longer  in  reputable  use  elsewhere,  had  found  a  last 
asylum  in  Oxford,  the  paradise  of  dead  philosophies. 
Even  Oxford,  I  believe,  has  now  abandoned  it ;  yet  it  is  a 
good  word.  It  conveys,  as  no  other  word  can,  the  sense 
of  vast  multitudes  tossing  in  darkness,  harassed  by  demons 
of  their  own  choice.  No  doubt  it  implies  also  a  certain 
sanctimony  in  the  superior  person  who  uses  it,  as  if  he 
at  least  were  not  chattering  in  the  general  Babel.  What 
justified  Jews,  Christians,  and  Moslems  (as  Mohammed  in 
particular  insisted)  in  feeling  this  superiority  was  the 


possession  of  a  Book,  a  chart  of  life,  as  it  were,  in  which 
the  most  important  features  of  history  and  morals  were 
mapped  out  for  the  guidance  of  teachable  men.  The 
heathen,  on  the  contrary,  were  abandoned  to  their  own 
devices,  and  even  prided  themselves  on  following  only 
their  spontaneous  will,  their  habit,  presumption,  or  caprice. 

Most  unprejudiced  people  would  now  agree  that  the 
value  of  those  sacred  histories  and  rules  of  life  did  not 
depend  on  their  alleged  miraculous  origin,  but  rather  on 
that  solidity  and  perspicacity  in  their  authors  which 
enabled  them  to  perceive  the  laws  of  sweet  and  profitable 
conduct  in  this  world.  It  was  not  religion  merely  that 
was  concerned,  at  least  not  that  outlying,  private,  and 
almost  negligible  sphere  to  which  we  often  apply  this 
name  ;  it  was  the  whole  fund  of  experience  mankind  had 
gathered  by  living  ;  it  was  wisdom.  Now,  to  record  these 
lessons  of  experience,  the  Greeks  and  Romans  also  had 
their  Books  ;  their  history,  poetry,  science,  and  civil  law. 
So  that  while  the  theologically  heathen  may  be  those 
who  have  no  Bible,  the  morally  and  essentially  heathen 
are  those  who  possess  no  authoritative  wisdom,  or  reject 
the  authority  of  what  wisdom  they  have  ;  the  untaught 
or  unteachable  who  disdain  not  only  revelation  but  what 
revelation  stood  for  among  early  peoples,  namely,  funded 

In  this  sense  the  Greeks  were  the  least  heathen  of  men. 
They  were  singularly  docile  to  political  experiment,  to 
law,  to  methodical  art,  to  the  proved  limitations  and  re 
sources  of  mortal  life.  This  life  they  found  closely  hedged 
about  by  sky,  earth,  and  sea,  by  war,  madness,  and  con 
science  with  their  indwelling  deities,  by  oracles  and  local 
genii  with  their  accustomed  cults,  by  a  pervasive  fate, 
and  the  jealousy  of  invisible  gods.  Yet  they  saw  that 
these  divine  forces  were  constant,  and  that  they  exercised 
their  pressure  and  bounty  with  so  much  method  that  a 
prudent  art  and  religion  could  be  built  up  in  their  midst. 
All  this  was  simply  a  poetic  prologue  to  science  and 
the  arts  ;  it  largely  passed  into  them,  and  would  have 
passed  into  them  altogether  if  the  naturalistic  genius  of 
Greece  had  not  been  crossed  in  Socrates  by  a  premature 
discouragement,  and  diverted  into  other  channels. 


Early  Hebraism  itself  had  hardly  been  so  wise.  It 
had  regarded  its  tribal  and  moral  interests  as  absolute, 
and  the  Creator  as  the  champion  and  omnipotent  agent 
of  Israel.  But  this  arrogance  and  inexperience  were 
heathen.  Soon  the  ascendency  of  Israel  over  nature 
and  history  was  proclaimed  to  be  conditional  on  their 
fidelity  to  the  Law  ;  and  as  the  spirit  of  the  nation  under 
chastisement  became  more  and  more  penitential,  it  was 
absorbed  increasingly  in  the  praise  of  wisdom.  Salvation 
was  to  come  only  by  repentance,  by  being  born  again  with 
a  will  wholly  transformed  and  broken ;  so  that  the  later 
Jewish  religion  went  almost  as  far  as  Platonism  or  Christi 
anity  in  the  direction  opposite  to  heathenism. 

This  movement  in  the  direction  of  an  orthodox  wisdom 
was  regarded  as  a  progress  in  those  latter  days  of  antiquity 
when  it  occurred,  and  it  continued  to  be  so  regarded  in 
Christendom  until  the  rise  of  romanticism.  The  most 
radical  reformers  simply  urged  that  the  current  orthodoxy, 
religious  or  scientific,  was  itself  imperfectly  orthodox, 
being  corrupt,  overloaded,  too  vague,  or  too  narrow.  As 
every  actual  orthodoxy  is  avowedly  incomplete  and  partly 
ambiguous,  a  sympathetic  reform  of  it  is  always  in  order. 
Yet  very  often  the  reformers  are  deceived.  What  really 
offends  them  may  not  be  what  is  false  in  the  received 
orthodoxy,  but  what  though  true  is  uncongenial  to  them. 
In  that  case  heathenism,  under  the  guise  of  a  search  for 
a  purer  wisdom,  is  working  in  their  souls  against  wisdom 
of  any  sort.  Such  is  the  suspicion  that  Catholics  would 
throw  on  Protestantism,  naturalists  on  idealism,  and 
conservatives  generally  on  all  revolutions. 

But  if  ever  heathenism  needed  to  pose  as  constructive 
reform,  it  is  now  quite  willing  and  able  to  throw  off  the 
mask.  Desire  for  any  orthodox  wisdom  at  all  may  be 
repudiated  ;  it  may  be  set  down  to  low  vitality  and  failure 
of  nerve.  In  various  directions  at  once  we  see  to-day 
an  intense  hatred  and  disbelief  gathering  head  against 
the  very  notion  of  a  cosmos  to  be  discovered,  or  a  stable 
human  nature  to  be  respected.  Nature,  we  are  told,  is 
an  artificial  symbol  employed  by  life  ;  truth  is  a  temporary 
convention  ;  art  is  an  expression  of  personality ;  war  is 
better  than  peace,  effort  than  achievement,  and  feeling 


than  intelligence  ;  change  is  deeper  than  form  ;  will  is 
above  morality.  Expressions  of  this  kind  are  sometimes 
wanton  and  only  half  thought  out ;  but  they  go  very  deep 
in  the  subjective  direction.  Behind  them  all  is  a  sincere 
revulsion  against  the  difficult  and  confused  undertakings 
of  reason  ;  against  science,  institutions,  and  moral  com 
pulsions.  They  mark  an  honest  retreat  into  immediate 
experience  and  animal  faith.  Man  used  to  be  called  a 
rational  animal,  but  his  rationality  is  something  eventual 
and  ideal,  whereas  his  animality  is  actual  and  profound. 
Heathenism,  if  we  consider  life  at  large,  is  the  primal  and 
universal  religion. 

It  has  never  been  my  good  fortune  to  see  wild  beasts 
in  the  jungle,  but  I  have  sometimes  watched  a  wild  bull 
in  the  ring,  and  I  can  imagine  no  more  striking,  simple, 
and  heroic  example  of  animal  faith  ;  especially  when  the 
bull  is  what  is  technically  called  noble,  that  is,  when  he 
follows  the  lure  again  and  again  with  eternal  singleness  of 
thought,  eternal  courage,  and  no  suspicion  of  a  hidden 
agency  that  is  mocking  him.  What  the  red  rag  is  to  this 
brave  creature,  their  passions,  inclinations,  and  chance 
notions  are  to  the  heathen.  What  they  will  they  will ; 
and  they  would  deem  it  weakness  and  disloyalty  to  ask 
whether  it  is  worth  willing  or  whether  it  is  attainable. 
The  bull,  magnificently  sniffing  the  air,  surveys  the  arena 
with  the  cool  contempt  and  disbelief  of  the  idealist,  as  if 
he  said  :  "  You  seem,  you  are  a  seeming  ;  I  do  not  quarrel 
with  you,  I  do  not  fear  you.  I  am  real,  you  are  nothing." 
Then  suddenly,  when  his  eye  is  caught  by  some  bright 
cloak  displayed  before  him,  his  whole  soul  changes.  His 
will  awakes  and  he  seems  to  say  :  "  You  are  my  destiny  ; 
I  want  you,  I  hate  you,  you  shall  be  mine,  you  shall  not 
stand  in  my  path.  I  will  gore  you.  I  will  disprove  you. 
I  will  pass  beyond  you.  I  shall  be,  you  shall  not  have 
been."  Later,  when  sorely  wounded  and  near  his  end, 
he  grows  blind  to  all  these  excitements.  He  smells  the 
moist  earth,  and  turns  to  the  dungeon  where  an  hour  ago 
he  was  at  peace.  He  remembers  the  herd,  the  pasture 
beyond,  and  he  dreams  :  "I  shall  not  die,  for  I  love  life. 
I  shall  be  young  again,  young  always,  for  I  love  youth. 
All  this  outcry  is  nought  to  me,  this  strange  suffering  is 


nought.     I  will  go  to  the  fields  again,  to  graze,  to  roam, 
to  love." 

So  exactly,  with  not  one  least  concession  to  the  un 
suspected  reality,  the  heathen  soul  stands  bravely  before 
a  painted  world,  covets  some  bauble,  and  defies  death. 
Heathenism  is  the  religion  of  will,  the  faith  which  life 
has  in  itself  because  it  is  life,  and  in  its  aims  because  it 
is  pursuing  them. 





MATERIALISM,  like  any  system  of  natural  philosophy, 
carries  with  it  no  commandments  and  no  advice.  It 
merely  describes  the  world,  including  the  aspirations  and 
consciences  of  mortals,  and  refers  all  to  a  material  ground. 
The  materialist,  being  a  man,  will  not  fail  to  have  pre 
ferences,  and  even  a  conscience,  of  his  own ;  but  his 
precepts  and  policy  will  express,  not  the  logical  implications 
of  his  science,  but  his  human  instincts,  as  inheritance 
and  experience  may  have  shaped  them.  Any  system  of 
ethics  might  accordingly  coexist  with  materialism ;  for  if 
materialism  declares  certain  things  (like  immortality)  to 
be  impossible,  it  cannot  declare  them  to  be  undesirable. 
Nevertheless,  it  is  not  likely  that  a  man  so  constituted  as  to 
embrace  materialism  will  be  so  constituted  as  to  pursue 
things  which  he  considers  unattainable.  There  is  therefore 
a  psychological,  though  no  logical,  bond  between  materialism 
and  a  homely  morality. 

The  materialist  is  primarily  an  observer ;  and  he  will 
probably  be  such  in  ethics  also ;  that  is,  he  will  have  no 
ethics,  except  the  emotion  produced  upon  him  by  the 
march  of  the  world.  If  he  is  an  esprit  fort  and  really 
disinterested,  he  will  love  life ;  as  we  all  love  perfect 
vitality,  or  what  strikes  us  as  such,  in  gulls  and  porpoises. 
This,  I  think,  is  the  ethical  sentiment  psychologically 
consonant  with  a  vigorous  materialism  :  sympathy  with 
the  movement  of  things,  interest  in  the  rising  wave,  delight 
at  the  foam  it  bursts  into,  before  it  sinks  again.  Nature 
does  not  distinguish  the  better  from  the  worse,  but  the 
lover  of  nature  does.  He  calls  better  what,  being  analogous 
to  his  own  life,  enhances  his  vitality  and  probably  possesses 



some  vitality  of  its  own.  This  is  the  ethical  feeling  of 
Spinoza,  the  greatest  of  modern  naturalists  in  philosophy  ; 
and  Lucretius,  in  spite  of  his  fidelity  to  the  ascetic  Epicurus, 
is  carried  by  his  poetic  ecstasy  in  the  same  direction. 

But  mark  the  crux  of  this  union  :  the  materialist  will 
love  the  life  of  nature  when  he  loves  his  own  life  ;  if  he 
should  hate  his  own  life,  how  should  the  life  of  nature 
please  him  ?  Now  Epicurus,  for  the  most  part,  hated  life. 
His  moral  system,  called  hedonism,  recommends  that  sort 
of  pleasure  which  has  no  excitement  and  no  risk  about  it. 
This  ideal  is  modest,  and  even  chaste,  but  it  is  not  vital. 
Epicurus  was  remarkable  for  his  mercy,  his  friendliness, 
his  utter  horror  of  war,  of  sacrifice,  of  suffering.  These 
are  not  sentiments  that  a  genuine  naturalist  would  be  apt 
to  share.  Pity  and  repentance,  Spinoza  said,  were  vain 
and  evil ;  what  increased  a  man's  power  and  his  joy 
increased  his  goodness  also.  The  naturalist  will  believe 
in  a  certain  hardness,  as  Nietzsche  did  ;  he  will  incline  to 
a  certain  scorn,  as  the  laughter  of  Democritus  was  scornful. 
He  will  not  count  too  scrupulously  the  cost  of  what  he 
achieves ;  he  will  be  an  imperialist,  rapt  in  the  joy  of 
achieving  something.  In  a  word,  the  moral  hue  of 
materialism  in  a  formative  age,  or  in  an  aggressive  mind, 
would  be  aristocratic  and  imaginative  ;  but  in  a  decadent 
age,  or  in  a  soul  that  is  renouncing  everything,  it  would 
be,  as  in  Epicurus,  humanitarian  and  timidly  sensual. 


SINCE  the  days  of  Descartes  it  has  been  a  conception 
familiar  to  philosophers  that  every  visible  event  in  nature 
might  be  explained  by  previous  visible  events,  and  that  all 
the  motions,  for  instance,  of  the  tongue  in  speech,  or  of 
the  hand  in  painting,  might  have  merely  physical  causes. 
If  consciousness  is  thus  accessory  to  life  and  not  essential 
to  it,  the  race  of  man  might  have  existed  upon  the  earth 
and  acquired  all  the  arts  necessary  for  its  subsistence 
without  possessing  a  single  sensation,  idea,  or  emotion. 
Natural  selection  might  have  secured  the  survival  of 


those  automata  which  made  useful  reactions  upon  their 
environment.  An  instinct  of  self-preservation  would  have 
been  developed,  dangers  would  have  been  shunned  without 
being  feared,  and  injuries  avenged  without  being  felt. 

In  such  a  world  there  might  have  come  to  be  the  most 
perfect  organization.  There  would  have  been  what  we 
should  call  the  expression  of  the  deepest  interests  and  the 
apparent  pursuit  of  conceived  goods.  For  there  would 
have  been  spontaneous  and  ingrained  tendencies  to  avoid 
certain  contingencies  and  to  produce  others ;  all  the 
dumb  show  and  evidence  of  thinking  would  have  been 
patent  to  the  observer ;  he  might  have  feigned  ends  and 
objects  of  forethought,  as  in  the  case  of  the  water  that 
seeks  its  own  level,  or  of  the  vacuum  which  nature  abhors. 
But  the  particles  of  matter  would  have  remained  uncon 
scious  of  their  collocation,  and  all  nature  would  have  been 
insensible  of  their  changing  arrangement.  We  only,  the 
possible  spectators  of  that  process,  by  virtue  of  our  own 
interests  and  habits,  could  see  any  progress  or  culmination 
in  it.  We  should  see  culmination  where  the  result  attained 
satisfied  our  practical  or  aesthetic  demands,  and  progress 
wherever  such  a  satisfaction  was  approached.  But  apart 
from  ourselves,  and  our  human  bias,  we  can  see  in  such  a 
mechanical  world  no  element  of  value  whatever.  In  remov 
ing  consciousness,  we  have  removed  the  possibility  of  worth. 

But  it  is  not  only  in  the  absence  of  all  consciousness 
that  value  would  be  removed  from  the  world ;  by  a  less 
violent  abstraction  from  the  total  life  of  nature,  we  might 
conceive  beings  of  a  purely  intellectual  cast,  minds  in 
which  the  transformations  of  things  were  mirrored  without 
any  emotion.  Every  event  would  then  be  noted,  its 
relations  would  be  observed,  its  recurrence  might  even 
be  expected  ;  but  all  this  would  happen  without  a  shadow 
of  desire,  of  pleasure,  or  of  regret.  No  event  would  be 
repulsive,  no  situation  terrible.  We  might,  in  a  word, 
have  a  world  of  idea  without  a  world  of  will.  In  this  case, 
as  completely  as  if  consciousness  were  absent  altogether, 
all  value  and  excellence  would  be  gone.  So  that  for  the 
existence  of  good  in  any  form  it  is  not  merely  consciousness 
but  emotional  consciousness  that  is  needed.  Observation 
will  not  do,  appreciation  is  required. 



We  may  therefore  at  once  assert  this  axiom,  important 
for  all  moral  philosophy  and  fatal  to  certain  stubborn 
incoherences  of  thought,  that  there  is  no  value  apart 
from  some  appreciation  of  it,  and  no  good  apart,  from  some 
preference  of  it  before  its  absence  or  its  opposite.  In 
appreciation,  in  preference,  lies  the  root  and  essence  of 
all  excellence.  Or,  as  Spinoza  clearly  expresses  it,  we 
desire  nothing  because  it  is  good,  but  it  is  good  only  because 
we  desire  it. 

It  is  true  that  in  the  absence  of  an  instinctive  reaction 
we  can  still  apply  these  epithets  by  an  appeal  to  usage. 
We  may  agree  that  an  action  is  bad,  or  a  building  good, 
because  we  recognize  in  them  a  character  which  we  have 
learned  to  designate  by  that  adjective  ;  but  unless  there  is 
in  us  some  trace  of  passionate  reprobation  or  of  sensible 
delight,  there  is  no  moral  or  aesthetic  judgment.  It  is  all 
a  question  of  propriety  of  speech,  and  of  the  empty  titles 
of  things.  The  verbal  and  mechanical  proposition,  that 
passes  for  judgment  of  worth,  is  the  great  cloak  of  ineptitude 
in  these  matters.  Insensibility  is  very  quick  in  the  con 
ventional  use  of  words.  If  we  appealed  more  often  to 
actual  feeling,  our  judgments  would  be  more  diverse, 
but  they  would  be  more  legitimate  and  instructive. 

Values  spring  from  the  immediate  and  inexplicable 
reaction  of  vital  impulse,  and  from  the  irrational  part 
@f  our  nature.  The  rational  part  is  by  its  essence  relative  ; 
it  leads  us  from  data  to  conclusions,  or  from  parts  to 
wholes  ;  it  never  furnishes  the  data  with  which  it  works. 
If  any  preference  or  precept  were  declared  to  be  ultimate 
and  primitive,  it  would  thereby  be  declared  to  be  irrational, 
since  mediation,  inference,  and  synthesis  are  the  essence 
of  rationality.  The  ideal  of  rationality  is  itself  as  arbitrary, 
as  much  dependent  on  the  needs  of  a  finite  organization, 
as  any  other  ideal.  Only  as  ultimately  securing  tran 
quillity  of  mind,  which  the  philosopher  instinctively  pursues, 
has  it  for  him  any  necessity.  In  spite  of  the  verbal  pro 
priety  of  saying  that  reason  demands  rationality,  what 
really  demands  rationality,  what  makes  it  a  good  and 
indispensable  thing  and  gives  it  all  its  authority,  is  not 
its  own  nature,  but  our  need  of  it  both  in  safe  and  economical 
action  and  in  the  pleasures  of  comprehension. 



A  THEORY  is  not  an  unemotional  thing.  If  music  can  be 
full  of  passion,  merely  by  giving  form  to  a  single  sense, 
how  with  much  more  beauty  or  terror  may  not  a  vision 
be  pregnant  which  brings  order  and  method  into  every 
thing  that  we  know.  Materialism  has  its  distinct  aesthetic 
and  emotional  colour,  though  this  may  be  strangely  affected 
and  even  reversed  by  contrast  with  systems  of  an  incon 
gruous  hue,  jostling  it  accidentally  in  a  confused  and 
amphibious  mind.  If  you  are  in  the  habit  of  believing 
in  special  providences,  or  of  expecting  to  continue  your 
romantic  adventures  in  a  second  life,  materialism  will 
dash  your  hopes  most  unpleasantly,  and  you  may  think 
for  a  year  or  two  that  you  have  nothing  left  to  live  for. 
But  a  thorough  materialist,  one  born  to  the  faith  and 
not  half  plunged  into  it  by  an  unexpected  christening  in 
cold  water,  will  be  like  the  superb  Democritus,  a  laughing 
philosopher.  His  delight  in  a  mechanism  that  can  fall 
into  so  many  marvellous  and  beautiful  shapes,  and  can 
generate  so  many  exciting  passions,  should  be  of  the  same 
intellectual  quality  as  that  which  the  visitor  feels  in  a 
museum  of  natural  history,  where  he  views  the  myriad 
butterflies  in  their  cases,  the  flamingoes  and  shell-fish,  the 
mammoths  and  gorillas.  Doubtless  there  were  pangs 
in  that  incalculable  life,  but  they  were  soon  over ;  and 
how  splendid  meantime  was  the  pageant,  how  infinitely 
interesting  the  universal  interplay,  and  how  foolish  and 
inevitable  those  absolute  little  passions.  Somewhat  of 
that  sort  might  be  the  sentiment  that  materialism  would 
arouse  in  a  vigorous  mind,  active,  joyful,  impersonal,  and 
in  respect  to  private  illusions  not  without  a  touch  of 

To  the  genuine  sufferings  of  living  creatures  the  ethics 
that  accompanies  materialism  has  never  been  insensible ; 
on  the  contrary,  like  other  merciful  systems,  it  has  trembled 
too  much  at  pain  and  tended  to  withdraw  the  will  ascetic- 
ally,  lest  the  will  should  be  defeated.  Contempt  for 


mortal  sorrows  is  reserved  for  those  who  drive  with  hosannas 
the  Juggernaut  car  of  absolute  optimism.  But  against 
evils  born  of  pure  vanity  and  self-deception,  against  the 
verbiage  by  which  man  persuades  himself  that  he  is  the 
goal  and  acme  of  the  universe,  laughter  is  the  proper 
defence.  Laughter  also  has  this  subtle  advantage,  that 
it  need  not  remain  without  an  overtone  of  sympathy  and 
brotherly  understanding ;  as  the  laughter  that  greets 
Don  Quixote's  absurdities  and  misadventures  does  not 
mock  the  hero's  intent.  His  ardour  was  admirable,  but 
the  world  must  be  known  before  it  can  be  reformed  pertin 
ently,  and  happiness,  to  be  attained,  must  be  placed  in 

Oblivious  of  Democritus,  the  unwilling  materialists 
of  our  day  have  generally  been  awkwardly  intellectual 
and  quite  incapable  of  laughter.  If  they  have  felt  any 
thing,  they  have  felt  melancholy.  Their  allegiance  and 
affection  were  still  fixed  on  those  mythical  sentimental 
worlds  which  they  saw  to  be  illusory.  The  mechanical 
world  they  believed  in  could  not  please  them,  in  spite 
of  its  extent  and  fertility.  When  their  imagination  was 
chilled  they  spoke  of  nature,  most  unwarrantably,  as 
dead,  and  when  their  judgment  was  heated  they  took 
the  next  step  and  called  it  unreal.  A  man  is  not  blind, 
however,  because  every  part  of  his  body  is  not  an  eye, 
nor  every  muscle  in  his  eye  a  nerve  sensitive  to  light. 
Why,  then,  is  nature  dead,  although  it  swarms  with  living 
organisms,  if  every  part  is  not  obviously  animate  ?  And 
why  is  the  sun  dark  and  cold,  if  it  is  bright  and  hot  only 
to  animal  sensibility  ?  This  senseless  lamentation  is  like 
the  sophism  of  those  Indian  preachers  who,  to  make  men 
abandon  the  illusions  of  self-love,  dilated  on  the  shocking 
contents  of  the  human  body.  Take  off  the  skin,  they  cried, 
and  you  will  discover  nothing  but  loathsome  bleeding  and 
quivering  substances.  Yet  the  inner  organs  are  well  enough 
in  their  place  and  doubtless  pleasing  to  the  microbes  that 
inhabit  them  ;  and  a  man  is  not  hideous  because  his 
cross-section  would  not  offer  the  features  of  a  beautiful 
countenance.  So  the  structure  of  the  world  is  not  therefore 
barren  or  odious  because,  if  you  removed  its  natural  outer 
aspect  and  effects,  it  would  not  make  an  interesting  land- 


scape.  Beauty  being  an  appearance  and  life  an  operation, 
that  is  surely  beautiful  and  living  which  so  operates  and 
so  appears  as  to  manifest  those  qualities. 

It  is  true  that  materialism  prophesies  an  ultimate 
extinction  for  man  and  all  his  works.  The  horror  which 
this  prospect  inspires  in  the  natural  man  might  be  mitigated 
by  reflection  ;  but,  granting  the  horror,  is  it  something 
introduced  by  mechanical  theories  and  not  present  in 
experience  itself  ?  Are  human  things  inwardly  stable  ? 
Do  they  belong  to  the  eternal  in  any  sense  in  which  the 
operation  of  material  forces  can  touch  their  immortality  ? 
The  panic  which  seems  to  seize  some  minds  at  the  thought 
of  a  merely  natural  existence  is  something  truly  hysterical ; 
and  yet  one  wonders  why  ultimate  peace  should  seem  so 
intolerable  to  people  who  not  so  many  years  ago  found 
a  stern  religious  satisfaction  in  consigning  almost  the  whole 
human  race  to  perpetual  torture,  the  Creator,  as  Saint 
Augustine  tells  us,  having  in  his  infinite  wisdom  and  justice 
devised  a  special  kind  of  material  fire  that  might  avail 
to  burn  resurrected  bodies  for  ever  without  consuming 
them.  A  very  real  truth  might  be  read  into  this  savage 
symbol,  if  we  understood  it  to  express  the  ultimate  defeats 
and  fruitless  agonies  that  pursue  human  folly ;  and  so 
we  might  find  that  it  gave  mythical  expression  to  just 
that  conditioned  fortune  and  inexorable  flux  which  a 
mechanical  philosophy  shows  us  the  grounds  of.  Our 
own  vices  in  another  man  seem  particularly  hideous  ;  and 
so  those  actual  evils  which  we  take  for  granted  when 
incorporated  in  the  current  system  strike  us  afresh  when 
we  see  them  in  a  new  setting.  But  it  is  not  mechanical 
science  that  introduced  mutability  into  things  nor  material 
ism  that  invented  death. 

The  death  of  individuals,  as  we  observe  daily  in  nature, 
does  not  prevent  the  reappearance  of  life  ;  and  if  we  choose 
to  indulge  in  arbitrary  judgments  on  a  subject  where  data 
fail  us,  we  may  as  reasonably  wish  that  there  might  be 
less  life  as  that  there  might  be  more.  The  passion  for  a 
large  and  permanent  population  in  the  universe  is  not 
obviously  rational ;  at  a  great  distance  a  man  must  view 
everything,  including  himself,  under  the  form  of  eternity, 
and  when  life  is  so  viewed  its  length  or  its  diffusion  becomes 


a  point  of  little  importance.  What  matters  then  is  quality. 
The  reasonable  and  humane  demand  to  make  of  the  world 
is  that  such  creatures  as  exist  should  not  be  unhappy, 
and  that  life,  whatever  its  quantity,  should  have  a  quality 
that  may  justify  it  in  its  own  eyes.  This  just  demand, 
made  by  conscience  and  not  by  an  arbitrary  fancy,  the 
world  described  by  materialism  does  not  fulfil  altogether, 
for  adjustments  in  it  are  tentative,  and  much  friction  must 
precede  and  follow  upon  any  vital  equilibrium  attained. 
This  imperfection,  however,  is  actual,  and  no  theory  can 
overcome  it  except  by  verbal  fallacies  and  scarcely  decep 
tive  euphemisms.  What  materialism  involves  in  this 
respect  is  exactly  what  we  find  :  a  tentative  appearance 
of  life  in  many  quarters,  its  disappearance  in  some,  and 
its  reinforcement  and  propagation  in  others,  where  the 
physical  equilibrium  attained  insures  to  it  a  natural  stability 
and  a  natural  prosperity. 

To  pass  beyond  good  and  evil  is  to  reach  a  sublime  neces 
sity  which,  to  an  unselfish  and  pure  intellect,  may  seem  a 
grander  thing.  All  depends  on  not  being  afraid  to  confess 
that  the  universe  is  non-human,  and  that  man  is  relative. 
Let  a  man  once  overcome  his  selfish  terror  at  his  own 
finitude,  and  his  finitude  itself  is,  in  one  sense,  overcome. 
A  part  of  his  soul,  in  sympathy  with  the  infinite,  has 
accepted  the  natural  status  of  all  the  rest  of  his  being. 
Perhaps  the  only  true  dignity  of  man  is  his  capacity  to 
despise  himself.  When  he  attains  this  dignity  all  things 
lose  what  was  threatening  and  sinister  about  them,  without 
needing  to  change  their  material  form  or  their  material 
influence.  Man's  intellectual  part  and  his  worshipping 
part  have  made  their  peace  with  the  world. 


IT  is  a  remarkable  fact,  which  may  easily  be  misinter 
preted,  that  while  all  the  benefits  and  pleasures  of  life 
seem  to  be  associated  with  external  things,  and  all  certain 
knowledge  seems  to  describe  material  laws,  yet  a  deified 


nature  has  generally  inspired  a  religion  of  melancholy. 
Why  should  the  only  intelligible  philosophy  seem  to  defeat 
reason  and  the  chief  means  of  benefiting  mankind  seem  to 
blast  our  best  hopes  ?  Whence  this  profound  aversion  to 
so  beautiful  and  fruitful  a  universe  ?  Whence  this  persist 
ent  search  for  invisible  regions  and  powers  and  for  meta 
physical  explanations  that  can  explain  nothing,  while 
nature's  voice  without  and  within  man  cries  aloud  to  him 
to  look,  act,  and  enjoy  ?  And  when  some  one,  in  protest 
against  such  senseless  oracular  prejudices,  has  actually 
embraced  the  life  and  faith  of  nature  and  taught  others 
to  look  to  the  natural  world  for  all  motives  and  sanctions, 
expecting  thus  to  refresh  and  marvellously  to  invigorate 
human  life,  why  have  those  innocent  hopes  failed  so 
miserably  ?  Why  is  that  sensuous  optimism  we  may  call 
Greek,  or  that  industrial  optimism  we  may  call  American, 
such  a  thin  disguise  for  despair  ?  Why  does  each  melt 
away  and  become  a  mockery  at  the  first  approach  of 
reflection  ?  Why  has  man's  conscience  in  the  end  invari 
ably  rebelled  against  naturalism  and  reverted  in  some  form 
or  other  to  a  cultus  of  the  unseen  ? 

We  may  answer  in  the  words  of  Saint  Paul :  because 
things  seen  are  temporal  and  things  not  seen  are  eternal. 
And  we  may  add  that  the  eternal  is  the  truly  human, 
that  which  is  akin  to  the  first  indispensable  products  of 
intelligence,  which  arise  by  the  fusion  of  successive  images 
in  discourse,  and  transcend  the  particular  in  time,  peopling 
the  mind  with  permanent  and  recognizable  objects,  and 
strengthening  it  with  a  synthetic,  dramatic  apprehension 
of  itself  and  its  own  experience.  Concretion  in  existence, 
on  the  contrary,  yields  essentially  detached  and  empirical 
unities,  foreign  to  mind  in  spite  of  their  order,  and  unin 
telligible  in  spite  of  their  clearness.  Reason  fails  to 
assimilate  in  them  precisely  that  which  makes  them 
existent,  namely,  their  presence  here  and  now,  in  this 
order  and  number.  The  form  and  quality  of  them  we  can 
retain,  domesticate,  and  weave  into  the  texture  of  reflec 
tion,  but  their  existence  and  individuality  remain  a  dogma 
of  sense  needing  to  be  verified  anew  at  every  moment  and 
actually  receiving  continual  verification  or  disproof  while 
we  live  in  this  world. 


"  This  world  "  we  call  it,  not  without  justifiable  pathos, 
for  many  other  worlds  are  conceivable  and  if  discovered 
might  prove  more  rational  and  intelligible  and  more  akin 
to  the  soul  than  this  strange  universe  which  man  has 
hitherto  always  looked  upon  with  increasing  astonishment. 
The  materials  of  experience  are  no  sooner  in  hand  than 
they  are  transformed  by  intelligence,  reduced  to  those 
permanent  presences,  those  natures  and  relations,  which 
alone  can  live  in  discourse.  Those  materials,  rearranged 
into  the  abstract  summaries  we  call  history  or  science,  or 
pieced  out  into  the  reconstructions  and  extensions  we  call 
poetry  or  religion,  furnish  us  with  ideas  of  as  many  dream 
worlds  as  we  please,  all  nearer  to  reason's  ideal  than  is  the 
actual  chaos  of  perceptual  experience,  and  some  nearer 
to  the  heart's  desire.  When  an  empirical  philosophy, 
therefore,  calls  us  back  from  the  irresponsible  flights  of 
imagination  to  the  shock  of  sense  and  tries  to  remind  us 
that  in  this  alone  we  touch  existence  and  come  upon  fact, 
we  feel  dispossessed  of  our  nature  and  cramped  in  our  life. 
The  actuality  possessed  by  existence  cannot  make  up  for 
its  instability,  nor  the  applicability  of  scientific  principles 
for  their  hypothetical  character.  The  dependence  upon 
sense,  which  we  are  reduced  to  when  we  consider  the  world 
of  existences,  becomes  a  too  plain  hint  of  our  essential 
impotence  and  mortality,  while  the  play  of  logical  fancy, 
though  it  remain  inevitable,  is  saddened  by  a  consciousness 
of  its  own  insignificance. 

That  dignity,  then,  which  inheres  in  logical  ideas  and 
their  affinity  to  moral  enthusiasm,  springs  from  their 
congruity  with  the  primary  habits  of  intelligence  and 
idealization.  The  soul  or  self  or  personality,  which  in 
sophisticated  social  life  is  so  much  the  centre  of  passion 
and  concern,  is  itself  an  idea,  a  concretion  in  discourse ; 
and  the  level  on  which  it  swims  comes  to  be,  by  association 
and  affinity,  the  region  of  all  the  more  vivid  and  massive 
human  interests.  The  pleasures  which  lie  beneath  it  are 
ignored,  and  the  ideals  which  lie  above  it  are  not  perceived. 
Aversion  to  an  empirical  or  naturalistic  philosophy  accord 
ingly  expresses  a  sort  of  logical  patriotism  and  attachment 
to  homespun  idea?.  The  actual  is  too  remote  and  un 
friendly  to  the  dreamer ;  to  understand  it  he  has  to  learn 


a  foreign  tongue,  which  his  native  prejudice  imagines  to 
be  unmeaning  and  unpoetical.  The  truth  is,  however, 
that  nature's  language  is  too  rich  for  man  ;  and  the  dis 
comfort  he  feels  when  he  is  compelled  to  use  it  merely 
marks  his  lack  of  education.  There  is  nothing  cheaper 
than  idealism.  It  can  be  had  by  merely  not  observing  the 
ineptitude  of  our  chance  prejudices,  and  by  declaring 
that  the  first  rhymes  that  have  struck  our  ear  are  the  eternal 
and  necessary  harmonies  of  the  world. 

With  nature  so  full  of  stuff  before  him,  I  can  hardly 
conceive  what  morbid  instinct  can  tempt  a  man  to  look 
elsewhere  for  wider  vistas,  unless  it  be  unwillingness  to 
endure  the  sadness  and  the  discipline  of  the  truth. 

If  it  be  true  that  matter  is  sinful,  the  logic  of  this  truth 
is  far  from  being  what  the  fanatics  imagine  who  commonly 
propound  it.  Matter  is  sinful  only  because  it  is  insuffi 
cient  or  is  wastefully  distributed.  There  is  not  enough 
of  it  to  go  round  among  the  legion  of  hungry  ideas.  To 
embody  or  enact  an  idea  is  the  only  way  of  making  it 
actual :  but  its  embodiment  may  mutilate  it,  if  the  material 
or  the  situation  is  not  propitious.  So  an  infant  may  be 
maimed  at  birth,  when  what  injures  him  is  not  being 
brought  forth,  but  being  brought  forth  in  the  wrong  manner. 
Matter  has  a  double  function  in  respect  to  moral  life  : 
essentially  it  enables  the  spirit  to  be,  yet  chokes  it  inci 
dentally.  Men  sadly  misbegotten,  or  those  who  are 
thwarted  at  every  step  by  the  times'  penury,  may  fall  to 
thinking  of  matter  only  by  its  defect,  ignoring  the  material 
ground  of  their  own  aspirations.  All  flesh  will  seem  to 
them  weak,  except  that  forgotten  piece  of  it  which  makes 
their  own  spiritual  strength.  Every  impulse,  however, 
had  initially  the  same  authority  as  this  censorious  one, 
by  which  the  others  are  now  judged  and  condemned. 

Throw  open  to  the  young  poet  the  infinity  of  nature  ; 
let  him  feel  the  precariousness  of  life,  the  variety  of  pur 
poses,  civilizations,  and  religions  even  upon  this  little 
planet ;  let  him  trace  the  triumphs  and  follies  of  art  and 
philosophy,  and  their  perpetual  resurrections.  If,  under 
the  stimulus  of  such  a  scene,  he  does  not  some  day  compose 
a  natural  comedy  as  much  surpassing  Dante's  divine 
comedy  in  sublimity  and  richness  as  it  will  surpass  it  in 


truth,  the  fault  will  not  lie  with  the  subject,  which  is 
inviting  and  magnificent,  but  with  the  halting  genius  that 
cannot  render  that  subject  worthily. 

Undoubtedly,  the  universe  so  displayed  would  not 
be  without  its  dark  shadows  and  its  perpetual  tragedies. 
That  is  in  the  nature  of  things.  Dante's  cosmos,  for  all 
its  mythical  idealism,  was  not  so  false  as  not  to  have  a 
hell  in  it.  Those  rolling  spheres,  with  all  their  lights  and 
music,  circled  for  ever  about  hell.  Perhaps  in  the  real  life  of 
nature  evil  may  not  prove  to  be  so  central  as  that.  It 
would  seem  to  be  rather  a  sort  of  inevitable  but  incidental 
friction,  capable  of  being  diminished  indefinitely,  as  the 
world  is  better  known  and  the  will  is  better  educated.  In 
Dante's  spheres  there  could  be  no  discord  whatever ; 
but  at  the  core  of  them  was  eternal  woe.  In  the  star-dust 
of  our  physics  discords  are  everywhere,  and  harmony 
is  only  tentative  and  approximate,  as  it  is  in  the  best 
earthly  life ;  but  at  the  core  there  is  nothing  sinister,  only 
freedom,  innocence,  inexhaustible  possibilities  of  all  sorts 
of  happiness. 


WHY  the  world  appears  as  it  does,  whether  of  itself  or  by 
refraction  in  the  medium  of  our  intellect,  is  not  a  question 
that  affects  the  practical  moralist.  What  concerns  him 
is  that  the  laws  of  the  world,  whatever  their  origin,  are 
fixed  and  unchangeable  conditions  of  our  happiness.  We 
cannot  change  the  world,  even  if  we  boast  that  we  have 
made  it ;  we  must  in  any  case  learn  to  live  with  it,  whether 
it  be  our  parent  or  our  child.  To  veil  its  character  with 
euphemisms  or  to  supply  its  defects  with  superstitious 
assumptions  is  a  course  unworthy  of  a  brave  man  and 
abhorrent  to  a  prudent  one.  What  we  should  do  is  to  make 
a  modest  inventory  of  our  possessions  and  a  just  estimate 
of  our  powers  in  order  to  apply  both,  with  what  strength 
we  have,  to  the  realization  of  our  ideals  in  society,  in  art, 
and  in  science.  These  will  constitute  our  Cosmos.  In 


building  it — for  there  is  none  other  that  builds  it  for  us — 
we  shall  be  carrying  on  the  work  of  the  only  race  that 
has  yet  seriously  attempted  to  live  rationally,  the  race 
to  which  we  owe  the  name  and  the  idea  of  a  Cosmos,  as 
well  as  the  beginnings  of  its  realization.  We  shall  then 
be  making  that  rare  advance  in  wisdom  which  consists 
in  abandoning  our  illusions  the  better  to  attain  our 

The  deceptions  which  nature  practises  on  man  are  not 
always  cruel.  There  are  also  kindly  deceptions  which 
prompt  him  to  pursue  or  expect  his  own  good  when,  though 
not  destined  to  come  in  the  form  he  looks  for,  this  good 
is  really  destined  to  come  in  some  shape  or  other.  Such, 
for  instance,  are  the  illusions  of  romantic  love,  which  may 
really  terminate  in  a  family  life  practically  better  than 
the  absolute  and  chimerical  unions  which  that  love  had 
dreamed  of.  Such,  again,  are  those  illusions  of  conscience 
which  attach  unspeakable  vague  penalties  and  repugnances 
to  acts  which  commonly  have  bad  results,  though  these 
are  impossible  to  forecast  with  precision.  When  dis 
illusion  comes,  while  it  may  bring  a  momentary  shock,  it 
ends  by  producing  a  settled  satisfaction  unknown  before, 
a  satisfaction  which  the  coveted  prize,  could  it  have  been 
attained,  would  hardly  have  secured.  When  on  the  day 
of  judgment,  or  earlier,  a  man  perceives  that  what  he 
thought  he  was  doing  for  the  Lord's  sake  he  was  really 
doing  for  the  benefit  of  the  least,  perhaps,  of  the  Lord's 
creatures,  his  satisfaction,  after  a  moment's  surprise, 
will  certainly  be  very  genuine. 


MATERIALISM  is  not  a  system  of  metaphysics  ;  it  is  a  specu 
lation  in  chemistry  and  physiology,  to  the  effect  that,  if 
analysis  could  go  deep  enough,  it  would  find  that  all  sub 
stance  was  homogeneous,  and  that  all  motion  was  regular. 
The  atoms  of  Democritus  seem  to  us  gross,  even  for 


chemistry,  and  their  quality  would  have  to  undergo  great 
transformation  if  they  were  to  support  intelligibly  psychic 
being  as  well ;  but  that  very  grossness  and  false  simplicity 
had  its  merits,  and  science  must  be  for  ever  grateful  to 
the  man  who  at  its  inception  could  so  clearly  formulate 
its  mechanical  ideal.  That  the  world  is  not  so  intelligible 
as  we  could  wish  is  not  to  be  wondered  at.  In  other 
respects  also  it  fails  to  respond  to  our  demands ;  yet  our 
hope  must  be  to  find  it  more  propitious  to  the  intellect 
as  well  as  to  all  the  arts  in  proportion  as  we  learn  better 
how  to  live  in  it. 

The  atoms  of  what  we  call  hydrogen  or  oxygen  may 
well  turn  out  to  be  worlds,  as  the  stars  are  which  make 
atoms  for  astronomy.  Their  inner  organization  might 
be  negligible  on  our  rude  plane  of  being  ;  did  it  disclose 
itself,  however,  it  would  be  intelligible  in  its  turn  only  if 
constant  parts  and  constant  laws  were  discernible  within 
each  system.  So  that  while  atomism  at  a  given  level  may 
not  be  a  final  or  metaphysical  truth,  it  will  describe,  on 
every  level,  the  practical  and  efficacious  structure  of  the 
world.  We  owe  to  Democritus  this  ideal  of  practical 
intelligibility  ;  and  he  is  accordingly  an  eternal  spokesman 
of  reason.  His  system,  long  buried  with  other  glories 
of  the  world,  has  been  partly  revived  ;  and  although  it 
cannot  be  verified  in  haste,  for  it  represents  an  ultimate 
ideal,  every  advance  in  science  reconstitutes  it  in  some 
particular.  Mechanism  is  not  one  principle  of  explanation 
among  others.  In  natural  philosophy,  where  to  explain 
means  to  discover  origins,  transmutations,  and  laws, 
mechanism  is  explanation  itself.  But  it  does  not  ask  to 
be  worshipped.  A  theoretical  materialist,  who  looks  on 
the  natural  world  as  on  a  soil  that  he  has  risen  from  and 
feeds  on,  may  perhaps  feel  a  certain  piety  towards  those 
obscure  abysses  of  nature  that  have  given  him  birth  ; 
but  his  delight  will  be  rather  in  the  clear  things  of  the 
imagination,  in  the  humanities,  by  which  the  rude  forces 
of  nature  are  at  once  expressed  and  eluded. 



To  one  brought  up  in  a  sophisticated  society,  or  in  particular 
under  an  ethical  religion,  morality  seems  at  first  an  external 
command,  a  chilling  and  arbitrary  set  of  requirements 
and  prohibitions  which  the  young  heart,  if  it  trusted  itself, 
would  not  reckon  at  a  penny's  worth.  Yet  while  this 
rebellion  is  brewing  in  the  secret  conclave  of  the  passions, 
the  passions  themselves  are  prescribing  a  code.  They 
are  inventing  gallantry  and  kindness  and  honour ;  they 
are  discovering  friendship  and  paternity.  With  maturity 
comes  the  recognition  that  the  authorized  precepts  of 
morality  were  essentially  not  arbitrary ;  that  they  ex 
pressed  the  genuine  aims  and  interests  of  a  practised  will  ; 
that  their  alleged  alien  and  supernatural  basis  (which  if  real 
would  have  deprived  them  of  all  moral  authority)  was  but 
a  mythical  cover  for  their  forgotten  natural  springs.  Virtue 
is  then  seen  to  be  admirable  essentially,  and  not  merely 
by  conventional  imputation.  If  traditional  morality  has 
much  in  it  that  is  out  of  proportion,  much  that  is  unintelli 
gent  and  inert,  nevertheless  it  represents  on  the  whole 
the  verdict  of  reason.  It  speaks  for  a  typical  human 
will  chastened  by  a  typical  human  experience. 

Gnomic  wisdom,  however,  is  notoriously  polychrome, 
and  proverbs  depend  for  their  truth  entirely  on  the  occasion 
they  are  applied  to.  Almost  every  wise  saying  has  an 
opposite  one,  no  less  wise,  to  balance  it ;  so  that  a  man 
rich  in  such  lore,  like  Sancho  Panza,  can  always  find  a 
venerable  maxim  to  fortify  the  view  he  happens  to  be 
taking.  In  respect  to  foresight,  for  instance,  we  are  told, 
Make  hay  while  the  sun  shines,  A  stitch  in  time  saves  nine, 
Honesty  is  the  best  policy,  Murder  will  out,  Woe  unto  you, 
ye  hypocrites,  Watch  and  pray,  Seek  salvation  with  fear 
and  trembling,  and  Respice  finem.  But  on  the  same 
authorities  exactly  we  have  apposite  maxims,  inspired  by 
a  feeling  that  mortal  prudence  is  fallible,  that  life  is  shorter 
than  policy,  and  that  only  the  present  is  real ;  for  we 
hear,  A  bird  in  the  hand  is  worth  two  in  the  bush,  Carpe 


diem,  Ars  longa,  vita  brevis,  Be  not  righteous  overmuch, 
Enough  for  the  day  is  the  evil  thereof,  Behold  the  lilies 
of  the  field,  Judge  not,  that  ye  be  not  judged,  Mind  your 
own  business,  and  It  takes  all  sorts  of  men  to  make  a  world. 
So  when  some  particularly  shocking  thing  happens  one 
man  says,  Cherchez  la  femme,  and  another  says,  Great  is 

That  these  maxims  should  be  so  various  and  partial  is 
quite  intelligible  when  we  consider  how  they  spring  up. 
Every  man,  in  moral  reflection,  is  animated  by  his  own 
intent ;  he  has  something  in  view  which  he  prizes,  he 
knows  not  why,  and  which  wears  to  him  the  essential 
and  unquestionable  character  of  a  good.  With  this 
standard  before  his  eyes,  he  observes  easily — for  love  and 
hope  are  extraordinarily  keen-sighted — what  in  action 
or  in  circumstances  forwards  his  purpose  and  what  thwarts 
it ;  and  at  once  the  maxim  comes,  very  likely  in  the 
language  of  the  particular  instance  before  him.  Now  the 
interests  that  speak  in  a  man  are  different  at  different 
times ;  and  the  outer  facts  or  measures  which  in  one  case 
promote  that  interest  may,  where  other  less  obvious  con 
ditions  have  changed,  altogether  defeat  it.  Hence  all 
sorts  of  precepts  looking  to  all  sorts  of  results. 

Prescriptions  of  this  nature  differ  enormously  in  value  ; 
for  they  differ  enormously  in  scope.  By  chance  intuitive 
maxims  may  be  so  central,  so  expressive  of  ultimate  aims, 
so  representative,  I  mean,  of  all  aims  in  fusion,  that  they 
merely  anticipate  what  moral  science  would  have  come  to 
if  it  had  existed.  This  happens  much  as  in  physics  ultimate 
truths  may  be  divined  by  poets  long  before  they  are  dis 
covered  by  investigators ;  the  vivida  vis  animi  taking 
the  place  of  much  recorded  experience,  because  much 
unrecorded  experience  has  secretly  fed  it.  Such,  for 
instance,  is  the  central  maxim  of  Christianity,  Love  thy 
neighbour  as  thyself.  On  the  other  hand,  what  is  usual 
in  intuitive  codes  is  a  mixture  of  some  elementary  precepts, 
necessary  to  any  society,  with  others  representing  local 
traditions  or  ancient  rites  :  so  Thou  shalt  not  kill,  and 
Thou  shalt  keep  holy  the  Sabbath  day,  figure  side  by  side 
in  the  Decalogue.  When  Antigone,  in  her  sublimest 
exaltation,  defies  human  enactments  and  appeals  to  laws 



which  are  not  of  to-day  nor  yesterday,  no  man  knowing 
whence  they  have  arisen,  she  mixes  various  types  of  obliga 
tion  in  a  most  instructive  fashion  ;  for  a  superstitious 
horror  at  leaving  a  body  unburied — something  decidedly 
of  yesterday — gives  poignancy  in  her  mind  to  natural 
affection  for  a  brother — something  indeed  universal,  yet 
having  a  well-known  origin.  The  passionate  assertion  of 
right  is  here,  in  consequence,  more  dramatic  than  spiritual ; 
and  even  its  dramatic  force  has  suffered  somewhat  by  the 
change  in  ruling  ideals. 

Intuitive  ethics  has  nothing  to  offer  in  the  presence  of 
discord  except  an  appeal  to  force  and  to  ultimate  physical 
sanctions.  It  can  instigate,  but  cannot  resolve,  the  battle 
of  nations  and  the  battle  of  religions.  Precisely  the  same 
zeal,  the  same  patriotism,  the  same  readiness  for  martyrdom 
fires  adherents  to  rival  societies,  and  fires  them  especially 
in  view  of  the  fact  that  the  adversary  is  no  less  uncom 
promising  and  fierce.  It  might  seem  idle,  if  not  cruel  and 
malicious,  to  wish  to  substitute  one  historical  allegiance 
for  another,  when  both  are  equally  arbitrary,  and  the 
existing  one  is  the  more  congenial  to  those  born  under  it ; 
but  to  feel  this  aggression  to  be  criminal  demands  some 
degree  of  imagination  and  justice,  and  sectaries  would  not 
be  sectaries  if  they  possessed  it. 

Truly  religious  minds,  while  eager  perhaps  to  extirpate 
every  religion  but  their  own,  often  rise  above  national 
jealousies  ;  for  spirituality  is  universal,  whatever  churches 
may  be.  Similarly  politicians  often  understand  very  well 
the  religious  situation  ;  and  of  late  it  has  become  again 
the  general  practice  among  prudent  governments  to  do 
as  the  Romans  did  in  their  conquests,  and  to  leave  people 
free  to  exercise  what  religion  they  have,  without  pestering 
them  with  a  foreign  one.  On  the  other  hand  the  same 
politicians  are  the  avowed  agents  of  a  quite  patent  iniquity  ; 
for  what  is  their  ideal  ?  To  substitute  their  own  language, 
commerce,  soldiers,  and  tax-gatherers  for  the  tax-gatherers, 
soldiers,  commerce,  and  language  of  their  neighbours ; 
and  no  means  is  thought  illegitimate,  be  it  fraud  in  policy 
or  bloodshed  in  war,  to  secure  this  absolutely  nugatory 
end.  Is  not  one  country  as  much  a  country  as  another  ? 
Is  it  not  as  dear  to  its  inhabitants  ?  What  then  is 


gained  by  oppressing  its  genius  or  by  seeking  to  destroy  it 
altogether  ? 

Here  are  two  flagrant  instances  where  pre- rational 
morality  defeats  the  ends  of  morality.  Viewed  from 
within,  each  religious  or  national  fanaticism  stands  for  a 
good  ;  but  in  its  outward  operation  it  produces  and  be 
comes  an  evil.  It  is  possible,  no  doubt,  that  its  agents 
are  really  so  far  apart  in  nature  and  ideals  that,  like  men 
and  mosquitoes,  they  can  stand  in  physical  relations  only, 
and  if  they  meet  can  meet  only  to  poison  or  to  crush  one 
another.  More  probably,  however,  humanity  in  them  is  no 
merely  nominal  essence  ;  it  is  definable  ideally  by  a  partially 
identical  function  and  intent.  In  that  case,  by  studying 
their  own  nature,  they  could  rise  above  their  mutual 
opposition,  and  feel  that  in  their  fanaticism  they  were 
taking  too  contracted  a  view  of  their  own  souls  and  were 
hardly  doing  justice  to  themselves  when  they  did  such 
great  injustice  to  others. 


I  CANNOT  help  thinking  that  a  consciousness  of  the 
relativity  of  values,  if  it  became  prevalent,  would  tend 
to  render  people  more  truly  social  than  would  a  belief  that 
things  have  intrinsic  and  unchangeable  values,  no  matter 
what  the  attitude  of  any  one  to  them  may  be.  If  we 
said  that  goods,  including  the  right  distribution  of  goods, 
are  relative  to  specific  natures,  moral  warfare  would 
continue,  but  not  with  poisoned  arrows.  Our  private 
sense  of  justice  itself  would  be  acknowledged  to  have  but 
a  relative  authority,  and  while  we  could  not  have  a  higher 
duty  than  to  follow  it,  we  should  seek  to  meet  those  whose 
aims  were  incompatible  with  it  as  we  meet  things  physically 
inconvenient,  without  insulting  them  as  if  they  were 
morally  vile  or  logically  contemptible.  Real  unselfishness 
consists  in  sharing  the  interests  of  others.  Beyond  the 
pale  of  actual  unanimity  the  only  possible  unselfishness 
is  chivalry — a  recognition  of  the  inward  right  and  justifica- 


tion  of  our  enemies  fighting  against  us.  This  chivalry  has 
long  been  practised  in  the  battle-field  without  abolishing 
the  causes  of  war ;  and  it  might  conceivably  be  extended 
to  all  the  conflicts  of  men  with  one  another,  and  of  the 
warring  elements  within  each  breast.  Policy,  hypnotiza- 
tion,  and  even  surgery  may  be  practised  without  exorcisms 
or  anathemas.  When  a  man  has  decided  on  a  course  of 
action,  it  is  a  vain  indulgence  in  expletives  to  declare  that 
he  is  sure  that  course  is  absolutely  right.  His  moral 
dogma  expresses  its  natural  origin  all  the  more  clearly  the 
more  hotly  it  is  proclaimed  ;  and  ethical  absolutism,  being  a 
mental  grimace  of  passion,  refutes  what  it  says  by  what 
it  is.  Sweeter  and  more  profound,  to  my  sense,  is  the 
philosophy  of  Homer,  whose  every  line  seems  to  breathe 
the  conviction  that  what  is  beautiful  or  precious  has  not 
thereby  any  right  to  existence  ;  nothing  has  such  a  right ; 
nor  is  it  given  us  to  condemn  absolutely  any  force — god 
or  man — that  destroys  what  is  beautiful  or  precious,  for 
it  has  doubtless  something  beautiful  or  precious  of  its 
own  to  achieve. 

If  we  were  sure  of  our  ground,  we  should  be  willing  to 
acquiesce  in  the  naturally  different  feelings  and  ways  of 
others,  as  a  man  who  is  conscious  of  speaking  his  language 
with  the  accent  of  the  capital  confesses  its  arbitrariness  with 
gaiety,  and  is  pleased  and  interested  in  the  variations  of 
it  he  observes  in  provincials  ;  but  the  provincial  is  always 
zealous  to  show  that  he  has  reason  and  ancient  authority 
to  justify  his  oddities.  So  people  who  have  no  sensations, 
and  do  not  know  why  they  judge,  are  always  trying  to 
show  that  they  judge  by  universal  reason. 

It  is  unmeaning  to  say  that  what  is  beautiful  to  one  man 
ought  to  be  beautiful  to  another.  Evidently  this  obligation 
of  recognizing  the  same  qualities  is  conditioned  by  the 
possession  of  the  same  faculties.  But  no  two  men  have 
exactly  the  same  faculties,  nor  can  things  have  for  any  two 
exactly  the  same  values.  If  their  natures  are  different, 
the  form  which  to  one  will  be  entrancing  will  be  to  another 
even  invisible.  And  more :  incapacity  to  appreciate 
certain  types  of  beauty  may  be  the  condition  sine  qua  non 
for  the  appreciation  of  another  kind  ;  the  greatest  capacity 
both  for  enjoyment  and  for  creation  is  highly  specialized, 



and  the  greatest  ages  of  art  have  often  been  strangely 

What  is  loosely  expressed  by  saying  that  any  one  ought 
to  see  this  or  that  beauty  is  that  he  would  see  it  if  his 
disposition,  training,  or  attention  were  what  our  ideal 
demands  for  him  ;  and  our  ideal  of  what  any  one  should 
be  has  complex  but  discoverable  sources.  We  take,  for 
instance,  a  certain  pleasure  in  having  our  own  judgments 
supported  by  those  of  others  ;  we  are  intolerant,  if  not 
of  the  existence  of  a  nature  different  from  our  own,  at 
least  of  its  expression  in  words  and  judgments.  We  are 
confirmed  or  made  happy  in  our  doubtful  opinions  by  seeing 
them  accepted  universally.  If  the  animals  could  only  speak 
the  Inquisition  would  have  had  a  pretty  work  on  its  hands. 

There  is  no  need  of  refuting  anything,  for  the  will  which 
is  behind  all  ideals  and  behind  most  dogmas  cannot  itself 
be  refuted  ;  but  it  may  be  enlightened  and  led  to  reconsider 
its  intent,  when  its  satisfaction  is  seen  to  be  either  naturally 
impossible  or  inconsistent  with  better  things.  The  age  of 
controversy  is  past ;  that  of  interpretation  has  succeeded. 


THE  objects  of  human  desire  until  reason  has  compared 
and  experience  has  tested  them,  are  a  miscellaneous  assort 
ment  of  goods,  unstable  in  themselves  and  incompatible 
with  one  another.  It  is  a  happy  chance  if  a  tolerable 
mixture  of  them  recommends  itself  to  a  prophet  or  finds 
an  adventitious  acceptance  among  a  group  of  men. 
Intuitive  morality  is  adequate  while  it  simply  enforces 
those  obvious  and  universal  laws  which  are  indispensable 
to  any  society,  and  which  impose  themselves  everywhere 
on  men  under  pain  of  quick  extinction — a  penalty  which 
many  an  individual  and  many  a  nation  continually  prefers 
to  pay.  But  when  intuitive  morality  tries  to  guide  progress, 
its  magic  fails.  Ideals  are  tentative  and  have  to  be 
critically  viewed.  A  moralist  who  rests  in  his  intuitions 
may  be  a  good  preacher,  but  hardly  deserves  the  name  of 


philosopher.  He  cannot  find  any  authority  for  his  maxims 
which  opposite  maxims  may  not  equally  invoke.  To 
settle  the  relative  merits  of  rival  authorities  and  of  hostile 
consciences  it  is  necessary  to  appeal  to  the  only  real 
authority,  to  experience,  reason,  and  human  nature  in  the 
living  man.  No  other  test  is  conceivable  and  no  other 
would  be  valid  ;  for  no  good  man  would  ever  consent  to 
regard  an  authority  as  divine  or  binding  which  essentially 
contradicted  his  own  conscience.  Yet  a  conscience  which 
is  irreflective  and  incorrigible  is  too  hastily  satisfied 
with  itself,  and  not  conscientious  enough :  it  needs 
cultivation  by  dialectic.  It  neglects  to  extend  to  all 
human  interests  that  principle  of  synthesis  and  justice 
by  which  conscience  itself  has  arisen.  And  so  soon  as  the 
conscience  summons  its  own  dicta  for  revision  in  the  light 
of  experience  and  of  universal  sympathy,  it  is  no  longer 
called  conscience,  but  reason.  So,  too,  when  the  spirit 
summons  its  traditional  faiths,  to  subject  them  to  a  similar 
examination,  that  exercise  is  not  called  religion,  but 
philosophy.  It  is  true,  in  a  sense,  that  philosophy  is  the 
purest  religion  and  reason  the  ultimate  conscience  ;  but  so 
to  name  them  would  be  misleading.  The  things  commonly 
called  by  those  names  have  seldom  consented  to  live  at 
peace  with  sincere  reflection.  It  has  been  felt  vaguely 
that  reason  could  not  have  produced  them,  and  that  they 
might  suffer  sad  changes  by  submitting  to  it ;  as  if  reason 
could  be  the  ground  of  anything,  or  as  if  everything  might 
not  find  its  consummation  in  becoming  rational. 

There  is  one  impulse  which  intuitive  moralists  ignore  : 
the  impulse  to  reflect.  Human  instincts  are  ignorant, 
multitudinous,  and  contradictory.  To  satisfy  them  as 
they  come  is  often  impossible,  and  often  disastrous,  in 
that  such  satisfaction  prevents  the  satisfaction  of  other 
instincts  inherently  no  less  fecund  and  legitimate.  When 
we  apply  reason  to  life  we  immediately  demand  that  life 
be  consistent,  complete,  and  satisfactory  when  reflected 
upon  and  viewed  as  a  whole.  This  view,  as  it  presents 
each  moment  in  its  relations,  extends  to  all  moments 
affected  by  the  action  or  maxim  under  discussion  ;  it  has 
no  more  ground  for  stopping  at  the  limits  of  what  is  called 
a  single  life  than  at  the  limits  of  a  single  adventure.  To 


stop  at  selfishness  is  not  particularly  rational.  The  same 
principle  that  creates  the  ideal  of  a  self  creates  the  ideal  of 
a  family  or  an  institution. 

The  conflict  between  selfishness  and  altruism  is  like 
that  between  any  two  ideal  passions  that  in  some  particular 
may  chance  to  be  opposed  ;  but  such  a  conflict  has  no 
obstinate  existence  for  reason.  For  reason  the  person 
itself  has  no  obstinate  existence.  The  character  which  a 
man  achieves  at  the  best  moment  of  his  life  is  indeed 
something  ideal  and  significant ;  it  justifies  and  consecrates 
all  his  coherent  actions  and  preferences.  But  the  man's 
life,  the  circle  drawn  by  biographers  around  the  career  of 
a  particular  body,  from  the  womb  to  the  charnel-house, 
and  around  the  mental  flux  that  accompanies  that  career, 
is  no  significant  unity.  All  the  substances  and  efficient 
processes  that  figure  within  it  come  from  elsewhere  and 
continue  beyond ;  while  all  the  rational  objects  and 
interests  to  which  it  refers  have  a  transpersonal  status. 
Self-love  itself  is  concerned  with  public  opinion  ;  and  if 
a  man  concentrates  his  view  on  private  pleasures,  these 
may  qualify  the  fleeting  moments  of  his  life  with  an  intrinsic 
value,  but  they  leave  the  life  itself  shapeless  and  infinite, 
as  if  sparks  should  play  over  a  piece  of  burnt  paper. 

Rational  morality  is  an  embodiment  of  volition,  not  a 
description  of  it.  It  is  the  expression  of  living  interest, 
preference,  and  categorical  choice.  It  leaves  to  psychology 
and  history  a  free  field  for  the  description  of  moral 
phenomena.  It  has  no  interest  in  slipping  far-fetched 
and  incredible  myths  beneath  the  facts  of  nature,  so  as  to 
lend  a  non-natural  origin  to  human  aspirations.  It  even 
recognizes,  as  an  emanation  of  its  own  force,  that  un 
compromising  truthfulness  with  which  science  assigns  all 
forms  of  moral  life  to  their  place  in  the  mechanical  system 
of  nature.  But  the  rational  moralist  is  not  on  that  account 
reduced  to  a  mere  spectator,  a  physicist  acknowledging 
no  interest  except  the  interest  in  facts  and  in  the  laws 
of  change.  His  own  spirit,  small  by  the  material  forces 
which  it  may  stand  for  and  express,  is  great  by  its  preroga 
tive  of  surveying  and  judging  the  universe  ;  surveying  it, 
of  course,  from  a  mortal  point  of  view,  and  judging  it  only 
by  its  kindliness  or  cruelty  to  some  actual  interest,  yet, 


even  so,  determining  unequivocally  a  part  of  its  constitution 
and  excellence.  The  rational  moralist  represents  a  force 
energizing  in  the  world,  discovering  its  affinities  there 
and  clinging  to  them  to  the  exclusion  of  their  hateful 
opposites.  He  represents,  over  against  the  chance  facts, 
an  ideal  embodying  the  particular  demands,  possibilities, 
and  satisfactions  of  a  reflective  being. 

The  radical  impulses  at  work  in  any  animal  must 
continue  to  speak  while  he  lives,  for  they  are  his  essence. 
A  true  morality  does  not  have  to  be  adopted ;  the  parts 
of  it  best  practised  are  those  which  are  never  preached. 
To  be  "  converted  "  would  be  to  pass  from  one  self-betrayal 
to  another.  It  would  be  to  found  a  new  morality  on  a 
new  tyranny.  The  morality  which  has  genuine  authority 
exists  inevitably  and  speaks  autonomously  in  every  common 
judgment,  self-congratulation,  ambition,  or  passion  that 
fills  the  vulgar  day.  The  pursuit  of  those  goods  which  are 
the  only  possible  or  fitting  crown  of  a  man's  life  is  pre 
determined  by  his  nature ;  he  cannot  choose  a  law-giver, 
nor  accept  one,  for  none  who  spoke  to  the  purpose  could 
teach  him  anything  btit  to  know  himself.  Rational  life 
is  an  art,  not  a  slavery  ;  and  terrible  as  may  be  the  errors 
and  the  apathy  that  impede  its  successful  exercise,  the 
standard  and  goal  of  it  are  given  intrinsically.  Any  task 
imposed  externally  on  a  man  is  imposed  by  force  only,  a 
force  he  has  the  right  to  defy  so  soon  as  he  can  do  so  without 
creating  some  greater  impediment  to  his  natural  vocation. 

Those  who  are  guided  only  by  an  irrational  conscience 
can  hardly  understand  what  a  good  life  would  be.  Their 
Utopias  have  to  be  supernatural  in  order  that  the  irrespon 
sible  rules  which  they  call  morality  may  lead  by  miracle 
to  happy  results.  But  such  a  magical  and  undeserved 
happiness,  if  it  were  possible,  would  be  unsavoury :  only 
one  phase  of  human  nature  would  be  satisfied  by  it,  and 
so  impoverished  an  ideal  cannot  really  attract  the  will. 
For  human  nature  has  been  moulded  by  the  same  natural 
forces  among  which  its  ideal  has  to  be  fulfilled,  and,  apart 
from  a  certain  margin  of  wild  hopes  and  extravagances, 
the  things  man's  heart  desires  are  attainable  under  his 
natural  conditions  and  would  not  be  attainable  elsewhere. 
The  conflict  of  desires  and  interests  in  the  world  is  not 


radical  any  more  than  man's  dissatisfaction  with  his  own 
nature  can  be  ;  for  every  particular  ideal,  being  an  expres 
sion  of  human  nature  in  operation,  must  in  the  end  involve 
the  primary  human  faculties  and  cannot  be  essentially 
incompatible  with  any  other  ideal  which  involves  them  too. 

To  adjust  all  demands  to  one  ideal  and  adjust  that 
ideal  to  its  natural  conditions — in  other  words,  to  live 
the  life  of  reason — is  something  perfectly  possible  ;  for 
those  demands,  being  akin  to  one  another  in  spite  of 
themselves,  can  be  better  furthered  by  co-operation  than 
by  blind  conflict,  while  the  ideal,  far  from  demanding  any 
profound  revolution  in  nature,  merely  expresses  her  actual 
tendency  and  forecasts  what  her  perfect  functioning 
would  be. 

Reason  as  such  represents  or  rather  constitutes  a  single 
formal  interest,  the  interest  in  harmony.  When  two 
interests  are  simultaneous  and  fall  within  one  act  of 
apprehension  the  desirability  of  harmonizing  them  is 
involved  in  the  very  effort  to  realize  them  together.  If 
attention  and  imagination  are  steady  enough  to  face  this 
implication  and  not  to  allow  impulse  to  oscillate  between 
irreconcilable  tendencies,  reason  comes  into  being.  Hence 
forth  things  actual  and  things  desired  are  confronted  by 
an  ideal  which  has  both  pertinence  and  authority. 


EVERY  real  pleasure  is  in  one  sense  disinterested.  It  is 
not  sought  with  ulterior  motives,  and  what  fills  the  mind 
is  no  calculation,  but  the  image  of  an  object  or  event, 
suffused  with  emotion.  A  sophisticated  consciousness  may 
often  take  the  idea  of  self  as  the  touchstone  of  its  inclina 
tions  ;  but  this  self,  for  the  gratification  and  aggrandize 
ment  of  which  a  man  may  live,  is  itself  only  a  complex  of 
aims  and  memories,  which  once  had  their  direct  objects, 
in  which  he  had  taken  a  spontaneous  and  ingenuous 
interest.  The  substance  of  selfishness  is  a  mass  of  un 
selfishness.  There  is  no  reference  to  the  nominal  essence 


called  oneself  either  in  one's  appetites  or  in  one's  natural 
affections  ;  yet  a  man  absorbed  in  his  meat  and  drink,  in 
his  houses  and  lands,  in  his  children  and  dogs,  is  called 
selfish  because  these  interests,  although  natural  and  instinc 
tive  in  him,  are  not  shared  by  others.  Even  our  vanities 
and  follies  are  disinterested  in  their  way.  When  a  man 
orders  his  tomb  according  to  his  taste,  it  is  not  in  the  hope 
of  enjoying  his  residence  in  it. 

When  moralists  deprecate  passion  and  contrast  it  with 
reason,  they  do  so,  if  they  are  themselves  rational,  only 
because  passion  is  so  often  "  guilty,"  because  it  works 
havoc  so  often  in  the  surrounding  world  and  leaves,  among 
other  ruins,  "  a  heart  high-sorrowful  and  cloyed."  Were 
there  no  danger  of  such  after-effects  within  and  without  the 
sufferer,  no  passion  would  be  reprehensible.  Nature  is 
innocent,  and  so  are  all  her  impulses  and  moods  when  taken 
in  isolation  ;  it  is  only  on  meeting  that  they  blush. 


ARTISTS  in  life,  if  that  expression  may  be  used  for  those 
who  have  beautified  social  and  domestic  existence,  have 
appealed  continually  to  the  lower  senses.  A  fragrant 
garden,  and  savoury  meats,  incense,  and  perfumes,  soft 
stuffs,  and  delicious  colours,  form  our  ideal  of  oriental 
luxuries,  an  ideal  which  appeals  too  much  to  human  nature 
ever  to  lose  its  charm.  Yet  our  northern  poets  have  seldom 
attempted  to  arouse  these  images  in  their  sensuous  in 
tensity,  without  relieving  them  by  some  imaginative  touch. 
In  Keats,  for  example,  we  find  the  following  lines : 

And  still  she  slept  in  azure-lidded  sleep, 
In  blanched  linen,  smooth  and  lavendered, 
While  he  from  forth  the  closet  brought  a  heap 
Of  candied  apple,  quince,  and  plum,  and  gourd, 
With  jellies  soother  than  the  creamy  curd, 
And  lucent  syrops  tinct  with  cinnamon  ; 
Manna  and  dates  in  argosy  transferred 
From  Fez  ;    and  spiced  dainties,  every  one 
From  silken  Samarcand  to  cedared  Lebanon. 


Even  the  most  sensuous  of  English  poets,  in  whom  the 
love  of  beauty  is  supreme,  cannot  keep  long  to  the  primal 
elements  of  beauty  ;  the  higher  flight  is  inevitable  for  him. 
And  how  much  does  not  the  appeal  to  things  in  argosy 
transferred  from  Fez,  reinforced  with  the  reference  to 
Samarcand  and  especially  to  the  authorized  beauties  of  the 
cedars  of  Lebanon,  which  even  the  Puritan  may  sing  with 
out  a  blush,  add  to  our  wavering  satisfaction  and  reconcile 
our  conscience  to  this  unchristian  indulgence  of  sense  ! 

But  the  time  may  be  near  when  such  scruples  will  be 
less  common,  and  our  poetry,  with  our  other  arts,  will 
dwell  nearer  to  the  fountain-head  of  all  inspiration.  For  if 
nothing  not  once  in  sense  is  to  be  found  in  the  intellect, 
much  less  is  such  a  thing  to  be  found  in  the  imagination. 
If  the  cedars  of  Lebanon  did  not  spread  a  grateful  shade, 
or  the  winds  rustle  through  the  maze  of  their  branches,  if 
Lebanon  had  never  been  beautiful  to  sense,  it  would  not  now 
be  a  fit  or  poetic  subject  of  allusion.  And  the  word  "  Fez  " 
would  be  without  imaginative  value  if  no  traveller  had 
ever  felt  the  intoxication  of  the  torrid  sun,  or  the  languors 
of  oriental  luxury.  Nor  would  Samarcand  be  anything 
but  for  the  mystery  of  the  desert  and  the  picturesqueness 
of  caravans,  nor  would  an  argosy  be  poetic  if  the  sea  had 
no  voices  and  no  foam,  the  winds  and  oars  no  resistance, 
and  the  rudder  and  taut  sheets  no  pull.  From  these  real 
sensations  imagination  draws  its  life,  and  suggestion  its 
power.  The  sweep  of  the  fancy  is  itself  also  agreeable  ; 
but  the  superiority  of  the  distant  over  the  present  is  only 
due  to  the  mass  and  variety  of  the  pleasures  that  can  be 
suggested,  compared  with  the  poverty  of  those  that  can 
at  any  time  be  felt. 


HEDONISTIC  ethics  have  always  had  to  struggle  against  the 
moral  sense  of  mankind.  Earnest  minds,  that  feel  the 
weight  and  dignity  of  life,  rebel  against  the  assertion  that 
the  aim  of  right  conduct  is  enjoyment.  Pleasure  usually 
appears  to  them  as  a  temptation,  and  they  sometimes  go 


so  far  as  to  make  avoidance  of  it  a  virtue.  The  truth  is 
that  morality  is  not  mainly  concerned  with  the  attainment 
of  pleasure  ;  it  is  rather  concerned,  in  all  its  deeper  and 
more  authoritative  maxims,  with  the  prevention  of  suffer 
ing.  There  is  something  artificial  in  the  deliberate  pursuit 
of  pleasure  ;  there  is  something  absurd  in  the  obligation 
to  enjoy  oneself.  We  feel  no  duty  in  that  direction  ;  we 
take  to  enjoyment  naturally  enough  after  the  work  of  life 
is  done,  and  the  freedom  and  spontaneity  of  our  pleasures 
is  what  is  most  essential  to  them. 

The  sad  business  of  life  is  rather  to  escape  certain  dread 
ful  evils  to  which  our  nature  exposes  us, — death,  hunger, 
disease,  weariness,  isolation,  and  contempt.  By  the  awful 
authority  of  these  things,  which  stand  like  spectres  behind 
every  moral  injunction,  conscience  in  reality  speaks,  and 
a  mind  which  they  have  duly  impressed  cannot  but  feel, 
by  contrast,  the  hopeless  triviality  of  the  search  for 
pleasure.  A  life  abandoned  to  amusement  and  to  chang 
ing  impulses  must  run  unawares  into  fatal  dangers.  The 
moment,  however,  that  society  emerges  from  the  early 
pressure  of  the  environment  and  is  tolerably  secure  against 
primary  evils,  morality  grows  lax.  The  forms  that  life 
will  farther  assume  are  not  to  be  imposed  by  moral 
authority,  but  are  determined  by  the  genius  of  the  race, 
the  opportunities  of  the  moment,  and  the  tastes  and 
resources  of  individual  minds.  The  reign  of  duty  gives 
place  to  the  reign  of  freedom,  and  the  law  and  the  covenant 
to  the  dispensation  of  grace. 


To  put  value  in  pleasure  and  pain,  regarding  a  given 
quantity  of  pain  as  balancing  a  given  quantity  of  pleasure, 
is  to  bring  to  practical  ethics  a  worthy  intention  to  be  clear 
and,  what  is  more  precious,  an  undoubted  honesty  not 
always  found  in  those  moralists  who  maintain  the  opposite 
opinion  and  care  more  for  edification  than  for  truth.  For 
in  spite  of  all  logical  and  psychological  scruples,  conduct 


that  should  not  justify  itself  somehow  by  the  satisfactions 
secured  and  the  pains  avoided  would  not  justify  itself  at 
all.  The  most  instinctive  and  unavoidable  desire  is  forth 
with  chilled  if  you  discover  that  its  ultimate  end  is  to  be 
a  preponderance  of  suffering  ;  and  what  arrests  this  desire 
is  not  fear  or  weakness  but  conscience  in  its  most  categorical 
and  sacred  guise.  Who  would  not  be  ashamed  to  acknow 
ledge  or  to  propose  so  inhuman  an  action  ? 

By  sad  experience  rooted  impulses  may  be  transformed 
or  even  obliterated.  A  mind  that  foresees  pain  to  be  the 
ultimate  result  of  action  cannot  continue  unreservedly  to 
act,  seeing  that  its  foresight  is  the  conscious  transcript 
of  a  recoil  already  occurring.  Conversely,  the  mind  that 
surrenders  itself  wholly  to  any  impulse  must  think  that 
its  execution  would  be  delightful.  A  perfectly  wise  and 
representative  morality,  therefore,  would  aim  only  at  what, 
in  its  attainment,  could  continue  to  be  aimed  at  and 
approved  ;  and  this  is  another  way  of  saying  that  its 
aim  would  secure  the  maximum  of  satisfaction  eventually 

In  spite,  however,  of  this  involution  of  pain  and  pleasure 
in  all  deliberate  forecast  and  volition,  pain  and  pleasure 
are  not  the  ultimate  sources  of  value.  When  Petrarch  says 
that  a  thousand  pleasures  are  not  worth  one  pain,  he 
establishes  an  ideal  of  value  deeper  than  either  pleasure  or 
pain,  an  ideal  which  makes  a  life  of  satisfaction  marred  by 
a  single  pang  an  offence  and  a  horror  to  his  soul.  If  our 
demand  for  rationality  is  less  acute  and  the  miscellaneous 
affirmations  of  the  will  carry  us  along  with  a  well-fed 
indifference  to  some  single  tragedy  within  us,  we  may  aver 
that  a  single  pang  is  only  the  thousandth  part  of  a  thousand 
pleasures  and  that  a  life  so  balanced  is  nine  hundred  and 
ninety-nine  times  better  than  nothing.  This  judgment, 
for  all  its  air  of  mathematical  calculation,  in  truth  expresses 
a  choice  as  irrational  as  Petrarch's.  It  merely  means  that, 
as  a  matter  of  fact,  the  mixed  prospect  presented  to  us 
attracts  our  wills  and  attracts  them  vehemently.  So  that 
the  only  possible  criterion  for  the  relative  values  of  pains 
and  pleasures  is  the  will  that  chooses  among  them  or  among 
combinations  of  them.  All  beliefs  about  future  experi 
ence,  with  all  premonition  of  its  emotional  quality,  are 


based  on  actual  impulse  and  feeling  ;  so  that  the  source 
of  estimation  is  nothing  but  the  inner  fountain  of  life  and 
imagination,  and  the  object  of  pursuit  nothing  but  the 
ideal  object,  counterpart  of  the  present  demand.  Abstract 
satisfaction  is  not  pursued,  but,  if  the  will  and  the  environ 
ment  are  constant,  satisfaction  will  necessarily  be  felt  in 
achieving  the  object  desired. 

A  rejection  of  hedonistic  psychology,  therefore,  by  no 
means  involves  any  opposition  to  eudaemonism  in  ethics. 
Eudsemonism  is  another  name  for  wisdom  :  there  is  no 
other  moral  morality.  Any  system  that,  for  some  sinister 
reason,  should  absolve  itself  from  good-will  toward  all 
creatures,  and  make  it  somehow  a  duty  to  secure  their 
misery,  would  be  clearly  disloyal  to  reason,  humanity, 
and  justice.  Nor  would  it  be  hard,  in  that  case,  to  point 
out  what  superstition,  what  fantastic  obsession,  or  what 
private  fury  had  made  those  persons  blind  to  prudence 
and  kindness  in  so  plain  a  matter.  Happiness  is  the  only 
sanction  of  life  ;  where  happiness  fails,  existence  remains 
a  mad  and  lamentable  experiment.  The  question,  how 
ever,  what  happiness  shall  consist  in,  its  complexion  if  it 
should  once  arise,  can  only  be  determined  by  reference  to 
natural  demands  and  capacities  ;  so  that  while  satisfaction 
by  the  attainment  of  ends  can  alone  justify  their  pursuit, 
this  pursuit  itself  must  exist  first  and  be  spontaneous, 
thereby  fixing  the  goals  of  endeavour  and  distinguishing 
the  states  in  which  satisfaction  might  be  found.  Natural 
disposition,  therefore,  is  the  principle  of  preference  and 
makes  morality  and  happiness  possible. 

The  polemic  which  certain  moralists  have  waged 
against  pleasure  and  in  favour  of  pain  is  intelligible  when 
we  remember  that  their  chief  interest  is  edification,  and 
that  ability  to  resist  pleasure  and  pain  alike  is  a  valuable 
virtue  in  a  world  where  action  and  renunciation  are  the 
twin  keys  to  happiness.  But  to  deny  that  pleasure  is  a 
good  and  pain  an  evil  is  a  grotesque  affectation.  A  man 
who  without  necessity  deprived  any  person  of  a  pleasure 
or  imposed  on  him  a  pain,  would  be  a  contemptible  knave, 
and  the  person  so  injured  would  be  the  first  to  declare  it, 
nor  could  the  highest  celestial  tribunal,  if  it  was  just, 
reverse  that  sentence.  For  it  suffices  that  one  being, 


however  weak,  loves  or  abhors  anything,  no  matter  how 
slightly,  for  that  thing  to  acquire  a  proportionate  value 
which  no  chorus  of  contradiction  ringing  through  all  the 
spheres  can  ever  wholly  abolish.  An  experience  good  or 
bad  in  itself  remains  so  for  ever,  and  its  inclusion  in  a  more 
general  order  of  things  can  only  change  that  totality  pro 
portionately  to  the  ingredient  absorbed,  which  will  infect 
the  mass,  so  far  as  it  goes,  with  its  own  colour.  The  more 
pleasure  a  universe  can  yield,  other  things  being  equal, 
the  more  beneficent  and  generous  is  its  general  nature  ; 
the  more  pains  its  constitution  involves,  the  darker  and 
more  malign  is  its  total  temper.  To  deny  this  would  seem 
impossible,  yet  it  is  done  daily  ;  for  there  is  nothing  people 
will  not  maintain  when  they  are  slaves  to  superstition  ; 
and  candour  and  a  sense  of  justice  are,  in  such  a  case,  the 
first  things  lost. 



WORLDLY  minds  bristle  with  conventional  morality  (though 
in  private  they  may  nurse  a  vice  or  two  to  appease  way 
ward  nature),  and  they  are  rational  in  everything  except 
first  principles.  They  consider  the  voluptuary  a  weak 
fool,  disgraced  and  disreputable  ;  and  if  they  notice  the 
spiritual  man  at  all — for  he  is  easily  ignored — they  regard 
him  as  a  useless  and  visionary  fellow.  Civilization  has  to 
work  algebraically  with  symbols  for  known  and  unknown 
quantities  which  only  in  the  end  resume  their  concrete 
values,  so  that  the  journeymen  and  vulgar  middlemen  of 
the  world  know  only  conventional  goods.  They  are  lost 
in  instrumentalities  and  are  themselves  only  instruments 
in  the  life  of  reason.  Wealth,  station,  fame,  success  of 
some  notorious  and  outward  sort,  make  their  standard  of 
happiness.  Their  chosen  virtues  are  industry,  good  sense, 
probity,  conventional  piety,  and  whatever  else  has  acknow 
ledged  utility  and  seemliness. 

In  its  strictures  on  pleasure  and  reverie  this  Philistia  is 
perfectly   right.     Sensuous   living    (and   I   do   not   mean 


debauchery  alone,  but  the  palpitations  of  any  poet  without 
art  or  any  mystic  without  discipline)  is  not  only  inconse 
quential  and  shallow,  but  dangerous  to  honour  and  to 
sincere  happiness.  When  life  remains  lost  in  sense  or 
reverts  to  it  entirely,  humanity  itself  is  atrophied.  And 
humanity  is  tormented  and  spoilt  when,  as  more  often 
happens,  a  man  disbelieving  in  reason  and  out  of  humour 
with  his  world,  abandons  his  soul  to  loose  whimsies  and 
passions  that  play  a  quarrelsome  game  there,  like  so 
many  ill-bred  children.  Nevertheless,  compared  with  the 
worldling's  mental  mechanism  and  rhetoric,  the  sensual 
ist's  soul  is  a  well  of  wisdom.  He  lives  naturally  on 
an  animal  level  and  attains  a  kind  of  good.  He  has  free 
and  concrete  pursuits,  though  they  be  momentary,  and 
he  has  sincere  satisfactions.  He  is  less  often  corrupt  than 
primitive,  and  even  when  corrupt  he  finds  some  justifica 
tion  for  his  captious  existence.  He  harvests  pleasures 
as  he  goes  which,  taken  intrinsically,  may  have  the  depth 
and  ideality  which  nature  breathes  in  all  her  oracles.  His 
experience,  for  that  reason,  though  disastrous  is  interesting 
and  has  some  human  pathos  ;  it  is  easier  to  make  a  saint 
out  of  a  libertine  than  out  of  a  prig.  True,  the  libertine 
is  pursued,  like  the  animals,  by  unforeseen  tortures,  decay, 
and  abandonment,  and  he  is  vowed  to  a  total  death  ;  but 
in  these  respects  the  worldly  man  has  hardly  an  advantage. 
The  Babels  he  piles  up  may  indeed  survive  his  person, 
but  they  are  themselves  vain  and  without  issue,  while  his 
brief  life  has  been  meantime  spent  in  slavery  and  his 
mind  cramped  with  cant  and  foolish  ambitions.  The 
voluptuary  is  like  some  roving  creature,  browsing  on 
nettles  and  living  by  chance  ;  the  worldling  is  like  a  beast 
of  burden,  now  ill-used  and  overworked,  now  fatted, 
stalled,  and  richly  caparisoned.  ^Esop  might  well  have 
described  their  relative  happiness  in  a  fable  about  the 
wild  ass  and  the  mule. 

Thus,  even  if  the  voluptuary  is  sometimes  a  poet  and 
the  worldling  often  an  honest  man,  they  both  lack  reason 
so  entirely  that  reflection  revolts  equally  against  the  life 
of  both.  Vanity,  vanity,  is  their  common  epitaph.  Now, 
at  the  soul's  christening  and  initiation  into  the  life  of 
reason,  the  first  vow  must  always  be  to  "  renounce  the 


pomps  and  vanities  of  this  wicked  world."  A  person  to 
whom  this  means  nothing  is  one  to  whom,  in  the  end, 
nothing  has  meaning.  He  has  not  conceived  a  highest 
good,  no  ultimate  goal  is  within  his  horizon,  and  it  has 
never  occurred  to  him  to  ask  what  he  is  living  for.  With 
all  his  pompous  soberness,  the  worldly  man  is  funda 
mentally  frivolous  ;  with  all  his  maxims  and  cant  estima 
tions  he  is  radically  inane.  He  conforms  to  religion  without 
suspecting  what  religion  means,  not  being  in  the  least 
open  to  such  an  inquiry.  He  judges  art  like  a  parrot, 
without  having  ever  stopped  to  evoke  an  image.  He 
preaches  about  service  and  duty  without  any  recognition 
of  natural  demands  or  any  standard  of  betterment.  His 
moral  life  is  one  vast  anacoluthon  in  which  the  final  term 
is  left  out  that  might  have  given  sense  to  the  whole,  one 
vast  ellipsis  in  which  custom  seems  to  bridge  the  chasm  left 
between  ideas.  He  denies  the  values  of  sense  because 
they  tempt  to  truancies  from  mechanical  activity ;  the 
values  of  reason  he  necessarily  ignores  because  they  lie 
beyond  his  scope.  He  adheres  to  conventional  maxims 
and  material  quantitative  standards  ;  his  production  is 
therefore,  as  far  as  he  himself  is  concerned,  an  essential 
waste  and  his  activity  an  essential  tedium.  If  at  least, 
like  the  sensualist,  he  enjoyed  the  process  and  expressed 
his  fancy  in  his  life,  there  would  be  something  gained  ;  and 
this  sort  of  gain,  though  overlooked  in  the  worldling's 
maxims,  all  of  which  have  a  categorical  tone,  is  really 
what  often  lends  his  life  some  propriety  and  spirit.  Busi 
ness  and  war  and  any  customary  task  may  come  to  form, 
so  to  speak,  an  organ  whose  natural  function  will  be  just 
that  operation,  and  the  most  abstract  and  secondary 
activity,  like  that  of  adding  figures  or  reading  advertise 
ments,  may  in  this  way  become  the  one  function  proper 
to  some  soul.  There  are  Nibelungen  dwelling  by  choice 
underground  and  happy  pedants  in  the  upper  air. 

Facts  are  not  wanting  for  these  pillars  of  society  to 
take  solace  in,  if  they  wish  to  defend  their  philosophy. 
The  time  will  come,  astronomers  say,  when  life  will  be 
extinct  upon  this  weary  planet.  All  the  delights  of  sense 
and  imagination  will  be  over.  It  is  these  that  will  have 
turned  out  to  be  vain.  But  the  masses  of  matter  which 


the  worldlings  have  transformed  with  their  machinery, 
and  carried  from  one  place  to  another,  will  remain  to  bear 
witness  of  them.  The  collocation  of  atoms  will  never  be 
what  it  would  have  been  if  their  feet  had  less  continually 
beaten  the  earth.  They  may  have  the  proud  happiness  of 
knowing  that,  when  nothing  that  the  spirit  values  endures, 
the  earth  may  still  sometimes,  because  of  them,  cast  a 
slightly  different  shadow  across  the  craters  of  the  moon. 

The  sensualist  at  least  is  not  worldly,  and  though  his 
nature  be  atrophied  in  all  its  higher  part,  there  is  not 
lacking,  as  we  have  seen,  a  certain  internal  and  abstract 
spirituality  in  his  experience.  He  is  a  sort  of  sprightly 
and  incidental  mystic,  treating  his  varied  succession  of 
little  worlds  as  the  mystic  does  his  monotonous  universe. 
Sense,  moreover,  is  capable  of  many  refinements,  by  which 
physical  existence  becomes  its  own  reward.  In  the 
disciplined  play  of  fancy  which  the  fine  arts  afford,  the 
mind's  free  action  justifies  itself  and  becomes  intrinsically 
delightful.  Science  not  only  exercises  in  itself  the  intel 
lectual  powers,  but  assimilates  nature  to  the  mind,  so  that 
all  things  may  nourish  it.  In  love  and  friendship  the 
liberal  life  extends  also  to  the  heart.  All  these  interests, 
which  justify  themselves  by  their  intrinsic  fruits,  make 
so  many  rational  episodes  and  patches  in  conventional 
life  ;  but  it  must  be  confessed  in  all  candour  that  these 
are  but  oases  in  the  desert,  and  that  as  the  springs  of  life 
are  irrational,  so  its  most  vehement  and  prevalent  interests 
remain  irrational  to  the  end.  When  the  pleasures  of  sense 
and  art,  of  knowledge  and  sympathy,  are  stretched  to  the 
utmost,  what  part  will  they  cover  and  justify  of  our 
passions,  our  industry,  our  governments,  our  religion  ? 



IN  moral  reprobation  there  is  often  a  fanatical  element,  I 
mean  that  hatred  which  an  animal  may  sometimes  feel 
for  other  animals  on  account  of  their  strange  aspect,  or 
because  their  habits  put  him  to  serious  inconvenience,  or 


because  these  habits,  if  he  himself  adopted  them,  might  be 
vicious  in  him.  Such  aversion,  however,  is  not  a  rational 
sentiment.  No  fault  can  be  justly  found  with  a  creature 
merely  for  not  resembling  another,  or  for  flourishing  in  a 
different  physical  or  moral  environment.  It  has  been  an 
unfortunate  consequence  of  mythical  philosophies  that 
moral  emotions  have  been  stretched  to  objects  with  which 
a  man  has  only  physical  relations,  so  that  the  universe  has 
been  filled  with  monsters  more  or  less  horrible,  according 
as  the  forces  they  represented  were  more  or  less  formidable 
to  human  life.  In  the  same  spirit,  every  experiment  in 
civilization  has  passed  for  a  crime  among  those  engaged 
in  some  other  experiment.  The  foreigner  has  seemed  an 
insidious  rascal,  the  heretic  a  pestilent  sinner,  and  any 
material  obstacle  a  literal  devil ;  while  to  possess  some 
unusual  passion,  however  innocent,  has  brought  obloquy  on 
every  one  unfortunate  enough  not  to  be  constituted  like 
the  average  of  his  neighbours.  The  physical  repulsion,  how 
ever,  which  everybody  feels  to  habits  and  interests  which 
he  is  incapable  of  sharing,  is  no  part  of  rational  estima 
tion,  large  as  its  share  may  be  in  the  fierce  prejudices  and 
superstitions  which  pre-rational  morality  abounds  in.  The 
strongest  feelings  assigned  to  the  conscience  are  not  moral 
feelings  at  all ;  they  express  merely  physical  antipathies. 

Toward  alien  powers  a  man's  true  weapon  is  not 
invective,  but  skill  and  strength.  An  obstacle  is  an 
obstacle,  not  a  devil ;  and  even  a  moral  life,  when  it  actually 
exists  in  a  being  with  hostile  activities,  is  merely  a  hostile 
power.  It  is  not  hostile,  however,  in  so  far  as  it  is  moral, 
but  only  in  so  far  as  its  morality  represents  a  material 
organism,  physically  incompatible  with  what  the  thinker 
has  at  heart. 

Material  conflicts  cannot  be  abolished  by  reason,  because 
reason  is  powerful  only  where  they  have  been  removed. 
Yet  where  opposing  forces  are  able  mutually  to  comprehend 
and  respect  one  another,  common  ideal  interests  at  once 
supervene,  and  though  the  material  conflict  may  remain 
irrepressible,  it  will  be  overlaid  by  an  intellectual  life, 
partly  common  and  unanimous.  In  this  lies  the  chivalry 
of  war,  that  we  acknowledge  the  right  of  others  to  pursue 
ends  contrary  to  our  own.  Competitors  who  are  able  to 

MORAL  WAR  257 

feel  this  ideal  comity,  and  who  leading  different  lives  in 
the  flesh  lead  the  same  life  in  imagination,  are  incited 
by  their  mutual  understanding  to  rise  above  that  material 
ambition,  perhaps  gratuitous,  that  has  made  them  enemies. 
They  may  ultimately  wish  to  renounce  that  temporal  good 
which  deprives  them  of  spiritual  goods  in  truth  infinitely 
greater  and  more  appealing  to  the  soul — innocence,  justice, 
and  intelligence.  They  may  prefer  an  enlarged  mind  to 
enlarged  frontiers,  and  the  comprehension  of  things  foreign 
to  the  destruction  of  them.  They  may  even  aspire  to  detach 
ment  from  those  private  interests  which,  as  Plato  said,  do  not 
deserve  to  be  taken  too  seriously ;  the  fact  that  we  must 
take  them  seriously  being  the  ignoble  part  of  our  condition. 

Of  course  such  renunciations,  to  be  rational,  must  not 
extend  to  the  whole  material  basis  of  life,  since  some 
physical  particularity  and  efficiency  are  requisite  for 
bringing  into  being  that  very  rationality  which  is  to  turn 
enemies  into  friends.  The  need  of  a  material  basis  for 
spirit  is  what  renders  partial  war  with  parts  of  the  world 
the  inevitable  background  of  charity  and  justice.  The 
frontiers  at  which  this  warfare  is  waged  may,  however, 
be  pushed  back  indefinitely.  Within  the  sphere  organized 
about  a  firm  and  generous  life  a  Roman  peace  can  be 
established.  It  is  not  what  is  assimilated  that  saps  a 
creative  will,  but  what  remains  outside  that  ultimately 
invades  and  disrupts  it.  In  exact  proportion  to  its  vigour, 
it  wins  over  former  enemies,  civilizes  the  barbarian,  and 
even  tames  the  viper,  when  the  eye  is  masterful  and  sym 
pathetic  enough  to  dispel  hatred  and  fear.  The  more 
rational  an  institution  is  the  less  it  suffers  by  making  con 
cessions  to  others ;  for  these  concessions,  being  just, 
propagate  its  essence.  The  ideal  commonwealth  can 
extend  to  the  limit  at  which  such  concessions  cease  to 
be  just  and  are  thereby  detrimental.  Beyond  or  below 
that  limit  strife  must  continue  for  physical  ascendancy, 
so  that  the  power  and  the  will  to  be  reasonable  may  not  be 
undermined.  Reason  is  an  operation  in  nature,  and  has 
its  root  there.  Saints  cannot  arise  where  there  have  been 
no  warriors,  nor  philosophers  where  a  prying  beast  does 
not  remain  hidden  in  the  depths. 

Perhaps  the  art  of  politics,  if  it  were  practised  scientific- 



ally,  might  obviate  open  war,  religious  enmities,  industrial 
competition,  and  human  slavery  ;  but  it  would  certainly 
not  leave  a  free  field  for  all  animals  nor  for  all  monstrosities 
in  men.  Even  while  admitting  the  claims  of  monsters  to 
be  treated  humanely,  reason  could  not  suffer  them  to  absorb 
those  material  resources  which  might  be  needed  to  main 
tain  rational  society  at  its  highest  efficiency.  We  cannot, 
at  this  immense  distance  from  a  rational  social  order, 
judge  what  concessions  individual  genius  would  be  called 
upon  to  make  in  a  system  of  education  and  government 
in  which  all  attainable  goods  should  be  pursued  scientifically. 
Concessions  would  certainly  be  demanded,  if  not  from 
well-trained  wills,  still  from  inevitable  instincts,  reacting 
on  inevitable  accidents.  There  is  tragedy  in  perfection, 
because  the  universe  in  which  perfection  arises  is  itself 
imperfect.  Accidents  will  always  continue  to  harass  the 
most  consummate  organism  ;  they  will  flow  in  both  from  the 
outer  world  and  from  the  interstices,  so  to  speak,  of  its 
own  machinery ;  for  a  rational  life  touches  the  irrational 
at  its  core  as  well  as  at  its  periphery.  In  both  directions 
it  meets  physical  force  and  can  subsist  only  by  exercising 
physical  force  in  return.  The  range  of  rational  ethics  is 
limited  to  the  intermediate  political  zone,  in  which  exist 
ences  have  attained  some  degree  of  natural  unanimity. 

It  should  be  added,  perhaps,  that  the  frontiers  between 
moral  and  physical  action  are  purely  notional.  Real 
existences  do  not  lie  wholly  on  one  or  the  other  side  of 
them.  Every  man,  every  material  object,  has  moral 
affinities  enveloping  an  indomitable  vital  nucleus  or  brute 
personal  kernel ;  this  moral  essence  is  enveloped  in  turn 
by  untraceable  relations,  radiating  to  infinity  over  the 
natural  world.  The  stars  enter  society  by  the  light  and 
knowledge  they  afford,  the  time  they  keep,  and  the  orna 
ment  they  lavish  ;  but  they  are  mere  dead  weights  in  their 
substance  and  cosmological  puzzles  in  their  destiny.  You 
and  I  possess  manifold  ideal  bonds  in  the  interests  we 
share  ;  but  each  of  us  has  his  poor  body  and  his  irremedi 
able,  incommunicable  dreams.  Beyond  the  little  span  of 
his  foresigth  and  love,  each  is  merely  a  physical  agency, 
preparing  the  way  quite  irresponsibly  for  undreamt-of 
revolutions  and  alien  lives. 




THE  inertia  s  which  physics  registers  in  the  first  law  of 
motion,  natural  history  and  psychology  call  habit.  In 
society  it  takes  the  form  of  custom,  which  when  codified 
is  called  law  and  when  enforced  is  called  government. 
Government  is  the  political  representative  of  a  natural 
equilibrium,  of  custom,  of  inertia ;  it  is  by  no  means  a 
representative  of  reason.  But  like  any  mechanical  com 
plication  it  may  become  rational,  and  many  of  its  forms 
and  operations  may  be  defended  on  rational  grounds. 

Suppose  a  cold  and  hungry  savage,  failing  to  find  berries 
and  game  enough  in  the  woods,  should  descend  into  some 
meadow  where  a  flock  of  sheep  were  grazing  and  pounce 
upon  a  lame  lamb  which  could  not  run  away  with  the 
others,  tear  its  flesh,  suck  up  its  blood,  and  dress  himself 
in  its  skin.  All  this  could  not  be  called  an  affair  under 
taken  in  the  sheep's  interest.  And  yet  it  might  well 
conduce  to  their  interest  in  the  end.  For  the  savage, 
finding  himself  soon  hungry  again,  and  insufficiently  warm 
in  that  scanty  garment,  might  attack  the  flock  a  second 
time,  and  thereby  begin  to  accustom  himself,  and  also 
his  delighted  family,  to  a  new  and  more  substantial  sort 
of  raiment  and  diet.  Suppose,  now,  a  pack  of  wolves, 
or  a  second  savage,  or  a  disease  should  attack  those  unhappy 
sheep.  Would  not  their  primeval  enemy  defend  them  ? 
Would  he  not  have  identified  himself  with  their  interests 
to  this  extent,  that  their  total  extinction  or  discomfiture 
would  alarm  him  also  ?  And  in  so  far  as  he  provided  for 
their  well-being,  would  he  not  have  become  a  good  shepherd? 
If,  now,  some  philosophic  wether,  a  lover  of  his  kind, 
reasoned  with  his  fellows  upon  the  change  in  their  con 
dition,  he  might  shudder  indeed  at  those  early  episodes 
and  at  the  contribution  of  lambs  and  fleeces  which  would 
not  cease  to  be  levied  by  the  new  government ;  but  he 
might  also  consider  that  such  a  contribution  was  nothing 
in  comparison  with  what  was  formerly  exacted  by  wolves, 
diseases,  frosts,  and  casual  robbers,  when  the  flock  was 


much  smaller  than  it  had  now  grown  to  be,  and  much  less 
able  to  withstand  decimation.  And  he  might  even  have 
conceived  an  admiration  for  the  remarkable  wisdom  and 
beauty  of  that  great  shepherd,  dressed  in  such  a  wealth 
of  wool ;  and  he  might  remember  pleasantly  some  occa 
sional  caress  received  from  him  and  the  daily  trough 
filled  with  water  by  his  providential  hand.  And  he  might 
not  be  far  from  maintaining  not  only  the  rational  origin, 
but  the  divine  right  of  shepherds. 

Such  a  savage  enemy,  incidentally  turned  into  a  useful 
master,  is  called  a  conqueror  or  king.  His  government  is 
nothing  but  a  chronic  raid,  mitigated  by  the  desire  to 
leave  the  inhabitants  prosperous  enough  to  be  continually 
despoiled  afresh.  At  first  an  army  is  simply  a  ravenous 
and  lusty  horde  quartered  in  a  conquered  country  ;  yet  the 
cost  of  such  an  incubus  may  come  to  be  regarded  as  an 
insurance  against  further  attack,  and  so  what  is  in  its 
real  basis  an  inevitable  burden  resulting  from  a  chance 
balance  of  forces  may  be  justified  in  after-thought  as  a 
rational  device  for  defensive  purposes.  Such  an  ulterior 
justification  has  nothing  to  do,  however,  with  the  causes 
that  maintain  armies  or  military  policies  :  and  accordingly 
those  virginal  minds  that  think  things  originated  in  the 
uses  they  may  have  acquired,  have  frequent  cause  to  be 
pained  and  perplexed  at  the  abuses  and  over-development 
of  militarism.  The  constant  compensation  tyranny  brings, 
which  keeps  it  from  at  once  exhausting  its  victims,  is  the 
silence  it  imposes  on  their  private  squabbles.  One  distant 
universal  enemy  may  be  less  oppressive  than  a  thousand 
unchecked  pilferers  and  plotters  at  home. 


To  fight  is  a  radical  instinct ;  if  men  have  nothing  else  to 
fight  over  they  will  fight  over  words,  fancies,  or  women, 
or  they  will  fight  because  they  dislike  each  other's  looks,  or 
because  they  have  met  walking  in  opposite  directions. 
To  knock  a  thing  down,  especially  if  it  is  cocked  at  an 

WAR  261 

arrogant  angle,  is  a  deep  delight  to  the  blood.  To  fight 
for  a  reason  and  in  a  calculating  spirit  is  something  your 
true  warrior  despises  ;  even  a  coward  might  screw  his 
courage  up  to  such  a  reasonable  conflict.  The  joy  and 
glory  of  fighting  lie  in  its  pure  spontaneity  and  consequent 
generosity  ;  you  are  not  fighting  for  gain,  but  for  sport  and 
for  victory.  Victory,  no  doubt,  has  its  fruits  for  the  victor. 
If  fighting  were  not  a  possible  means  of  livelihood  the 
bellicose  instinct  could  never  have  established  itself  in 
any  long-lived  race.  A  few  men  can  live  on  plunder,  just 
as  there  is  room  in  the  world  for  some  beasts  of  prey ; 
other  men  are  reduced  to  living  on  industry,  just  as  there 
are  diligent  bees,  ants,  and  herbivorous  kine.  But  victory 
need  have  no  good  fruits  for  the  people  whose  army 
is  victorious.  That  it  sometimes  does  so  is  an  ulterior 
and  blessed  circumstance  hardly  to  be  reckoned  upon. 

Since  barbarism  has  its  pleasures  it  naturally  has  its 
apologists.  There  are  panegyrists  of  war  who  say  that 
without  a  periodical  bleeding  a  race  decays  and  loses  its 
manhood.  Experience  is  directly  opposed  to  this  shameless 
assertion.  It  is  war  that  wastes  a  nation's  wealth,  chokes 
its  industries,  kills  its  flower,  narrows  its  sympathies, 
condemns  it  to  be  governed  by  adventurers,  and  leaves  the 
puny,  deformed,  and  unmanly  to  breed  the  next  generation. 
Internecine  war,  foreign  and  civil,  brought  about  the  greatest 
set-back  which  the  life  of  reason  has  ever  suffered ;  it 
exterminated  the  Greek  and  Italian  aristocracies.  Instead 
of  being  descended  from  heroes,  modern  nations  are 
descended  from  slaves ;  and  it  is  not  their  bodies  only 
that  show  it.  After  a  long  peace,  if  the  conditions  of  life 
are  propitious,  we  observe  a  people's  energies  bursting 
their  barriers  ;  they  become  aggressive  on  the  strength 
they  have  stored  up  in  their  remote  and  unchecked  develop 
ment.  It  is  the  unmutilated  race,  fresh  from  the  struggle 
with  nature  (in  which  the  best  survive,  while  in  war  it  is 
often  the  best  that  perish),  that  descends  victoriously  into 
the  arena  of  nations  and  conquers  disciplined  armies  at 
the  first  blow,  becomes  the  military  aristocracy  of  the  next 
epoch  and  is  itself  ultimately  sapped  and  decimated  by 
luxury  and  battle,  and  merged  at  last  into  the  ignoble 
conglomerate  beneath.  Then,  perhaps,  in  some  other 


virgin  country  a  genuine  humanity  is  again  found,  capable 
of  victory  because  unbled  by  war.  To  call  war  the  soil  of 
courage  and  virtue  is  like  calling  debauchery  the  soil  of  love. 

Blind  courage  is  an  animal  virtue  indispensable  in  a  world 
full  of  dangers  and  evils  where  a  certain  insensibility  and 
dash  are  requisite  to  skirt  the  precipice  without  vertigo. 
Such  animal  courage  seems  therefore  beautiful  rather  than 
desperate  or  cruel,  and  being  the  lowest  and  most  instinctive 
of  virtues  it  is  the  one  most  widely  and  sincerely  admired. 
In  the  form  of  steadiness  under  risks  rationally  taken, 
and  perseverance  so  long  as  there  is  a  chance  of  success, 
courage  is  a  true  virtue  ;  but  it  ceases  to  be  one  when  the 
love  of  danger,  a  useful  passion  when  danger  is  unavoidable, 
begins  to  lead  men  into  evils  which  it  was  unnecessary  to 
face.  Bravado,  provocativeness,  and  a  gambler's  instinct, 
with  a  love  of  hitting  hard  for  the  sake  of  exercise,  is  a 
temper  which  ought  already  to  be  counted  among  the 
vices  rather  than  the  virtues  of  man.  To  delight  in  war 
is  a  merit  in  the  soldier,  a  dangerous  quality  in  the  captain, 
and  a  positive  crime  in  the  statesman. 

The  panegyrist  of  war  places  himself  on  the  lowest 
level  on  which  a  moralist  or  patriot  can  stand  and  shows 
as  great  a  want  of  refined  feeling  as  of  right  reason.  For 
the  glories  of  war  are  all  blood-stained,  delirious,  and 
infected  with  crime  ;  the  combative  instinct  is  a  savage 
prompting  by  which  one  man's  good  is  found  in  another's 
evil.  The  existence  of  such  a  contradiction  in  the  moral 
world  is  the  original  sin  of  nature,  whence  flows  every 
other  wrong.  He  is  a  willing  accomplice  of  that  perversity 
in  things  who  delights  in  another's  discomfiture  or  in  his 
own,  and  craves  the  blind  tension  of  plunging  into  danger 
without  reason,  or  the  idiot's  pleasure  in  facing  a  pure 
chance.  To  find  joy  in  another's  trouble  is,  as  man  is 
constituted,  not  unnatural,  though  it  is  wicked  ;  and  to 
find  joy  in  one's  own  trouble,  though  it  be  madness,  is  not 
yet  impossible  for  man.  These  are  the  chaotic  depths  of 
that  dreaming  nature  out  of  which  humanity  has  tc 



PATRIOTISM  is  a  form  of  piety.  It  is  right  to  prefer  our 
own  country  to  all  others  because  we  are  children  and 
citizens  before  we  can  be  travellers  or  philosophers. 
Specific  character  is  a  necessary  point  of  origin  for  universal 
relations  :  a  pure  nothing  can  have  no  radiation  and  no 
scope.  It  is  no  accident  for  the  soul  to  be  embodied  : 
her  very  essence  is  to  express  and  bring  to  fruition  the 
functions  and  resources  of  the  body.  Its  instincts  sustain 
her  ideals  and  its  relations  her  world.  A  native  country 
is  a  sort  of  second  body,  another  enveloping  organism  to 
give  the  will  definition.  A  specific  inheritance  strengthens 
the  soul.  Cosmopolitanism  has  doubtless  its  place,  because 
a  man  may  well  cultivate  in  himself,  and  represent  in  his 
nation,  affinities  to  other  peoples,  and  such  assimilation 
to  them  as  is  compatible  with  personal  integrity  and 
clearness  of  purpose.  Plasticity  to  things  foreign  need  not 
be  inconsistent  with  happiness  and  utility  at  home.  But 
happiness  and  utility  are  possible  nowhere  to  a  man  who 
represents  nothing  and  who  looks  out  on  the  world  without 
a  plot  of  his  own  to  stand  on,  either  on  earth  or  in  heaven. 
He  wanders  from  place  to  place,  a  voluntary  exile,  always 
querulous,  always  uneasy,  always  alone.  His  very  criticisms 
express  no  ideal.  His  experience  is  without  sweetness, 
without  cumulative  fruits,  and  his  children,  if  he  has  them, 
are  without  morality.  For  reason  and  happiness  are  like 
other  flowers — they  wither  when  plucked.  On  the  other 
hand,  to  be  always  harping  on  nationality  is  to  convert 
what  should  be  a  recognition  of  natural  conditions  into  a 
ridiculous  pride  in  one's  own  oddities.  Nature  has  hidden 
the  roots  of  things,  and  though  botany  must  now  and  then 
dig  them  up  for  the  sake  of  comprehension,  their  place  is 
still  under  ground.  A  man's  feet  must  be  planted  in  his 
country,  but  his  eyes  should  survey  the  world. 

Where  parties  and  governments  are  bad,  as  they  are 
in  most  ages  and  countries,  it  makes  practically  no  difference 
to  a  community,  apart  from  local  ravages,  whether  its  own 


army  or  the  enemy's  is  victorious  in  war,  nor  does  it  really 
affect  any  man's  welfare  whether  the  party  he  happens  to 
belong  to  is  in  office  or  not.  These  issues  concern,  in  such 
cases,  only  the  army  itself,  whose  lives  and  fortunes  are  at 
stake,  or  the  official  classes,  who  lose  their  places  when  their 
leaders  fall  from  power.  The  private  citizen  in  any  event 
continues  in  such  countries  to  pay  a  maximum  of  taxes 
and  to  suffer,  in  all  his  private  interests,  a  maximum  of 
vexation  and  neglect.  Nevertheless,  because  he  has  some 
son  at  the  front,  some  cousin  in  the  government,  or  some 
historical  sentiment  for  the  flag  and  the  nominal  essence  of 
his  country,  the  oppressed  subject  will  glow  like  the  rest 
with  patriotic  ardour,  and  will  decry  as  dead  to  duty  and 
honour  any  one  who  points  out  how  perverse  is  this  helpless 
allegiance  to  a  government  representing  no  public  interest. 

In  proportion  as  governments  become  good  and  begin 
to  operate  for  the  general  welfare,  patriotism  itself  becomes 
representative  and  an  expression  of  reason  ;  but  just  in 
the  same  measure  does  hostility  to  that  government  on  the 
part  of  foreigners  become  groundless  and  perverse.  A 
competitive  patriotism  involves  ill-will  toward  all  other 
states  and  a  secret  and  constant  desire  to  see  them  thrashed 
and  subordinated.  It  follows  that  a  good  government, 
while  it  justifies  this  governmental  patriotism  in  its  subjects, 
disallows  it  in  all  other  men.  For  a  good  government  is 
an  international  benefit,  and  the  prosperity  and  true  great 
ness  of  any  country  is  a  boon  sooner  or  later  to  the  whole 
world  ;  it  may  eclipse  alien  governments  and  draw  away 
local  populations  or  industries,  but  it  necessarily  benefits 
alien  individuals  in  so  far  as  it  is  allowed  to  affect  them  at  all. 

Animosity  against  a  well-governed  country  is  therefore 
madness.  A  rational  patriotism  would  rather  take  the 
form  of  imitating  and  supporting  that  so-called  foreign 
country,  and  even,  if  practicable,  of  fusing  with  it.  The 
invidious  and  aggressive  form  of  patriotism,  though 
inspired  generally  only  by  local  conceit,  would  neverthe 
less  be  really  justified  if  such  conceit  happened  to  be  well 
grounded.  A  dream  of  universal  predominance  visiting 
a  truly  virtuous  and  intelligent  people  would  be  an  aspira 
tion  toward  universal  beneficence.  For  every  man  who 
is  governed  at  all  must  be  governed  by  others ;  the  point 


is,  that  the  others,  in  ruling  him,  shall  help  him  to  be 
himself  and  give  scope  to  his  congenial  activities.  When 
coerced  in  that  direction  he  obeys  a  force  which,  in  the 
best  sense  of  the  word,  represents  him,  and  consequently 
he  is  truly  free ;  nor  could  he  be  ruled  by  a  more  native 
and  rightful  authority  than  by  one  that  divines  and  satisfies 
his  true  necessities. 

A  man's  nature  is  not,  however,  a  quantity  or  quality 
fixed  unalterably  and  a  priori.  As  breeding  and  selection 
improve  a  race,  so  every  experience  modifies  the  individual 
and  offers  a  changed  basis  for  future  experience.  The  lan 
guage,  religion,  education,  and  prejudices  acquired  in  youth 
bias  character  and  predetermine  the  directions  in  which 
development  may  go  on.  A  child  might  possibly  change 
his  country  ;  a  man  can  only  wish  that  he  might  change  it. 
Therefore,  among  the  true  interests  which  a  government 
should  represent,  nationality  itself  must  be  included. 

Mechanical  forces,  we  must  not  weary  of  repeating,  do 
not  come  merely  to  vitiate  the  ideal ;  they  come  to  create 
it.  The  historical  background  of  life  is  a  part  of  its  sub 
stance,  and  the  ideal  can  never  grow  independently  of  its 
spreading  roots.  A  sanctity  hangs  about  the  sources  of 
our  being,  whether  physical,  social,  or  imaginary.  The 
ancients  who  kissed  the  earth  on  returning  to  their  native 
country  expressed  nobly  and  passionately  what  every  man 
feels  for  those  regions  and  those  traditions  whence  the  sap 
of  his  own  life  has  been  sucked  in.  There  is  a  profound 
friendliness  in  whatever  revives  primordial  habits,  however 
they  may  have  been  overlaid  with  later  sophistications. 
For  this  reason  the  homelier  words  of  a  mother  tongue, 
the  more  familiar  assurances  of  an  ancestral  religion,  and 
the  very  savour  of  childhood's  dishes,  remain  always  a 
potent  means  to  awaken  emotion.  Such  ingrained  in 
fluences,  in  their  vague  totality,  make  a  man's  true 
nationality.  A  government,  in  order  to  represent  the 
general  interests  of  its  subjects,  must  move  in  sympathy 
with  their  habits  and  memories  ;  it  must  respect  their 
idiosyncrasy  for  the  same  reason  that  it  protects  their 
lives.  If  parting  from  a  single  object  of  love  be,  as  it  is, 
true  dying,  how  much  more  would  a  shifting  of  all  the 
affections  be  death  to  the  soul. 


Man  is  certainly  an  animal  that,  when  he  lives  at  all, 
lives  for  ideals.  Something  must  be  found  to  occupy 
his  imagination,  to  raise  pleasure  and  pain  into  love 
and  hatred,  and  change  the  prosaic  alternative  between 
comfort  and  discomfort  into  the  tragic  one  between  happi 
ness  and  sorrow.  Now  that  the  hue  of  daily  adventure  is 
so  dull,  when  religion  for  the  most  part  is  so  vague  and 
accommodating,  when  even  war  is  a  vast  impersonal 
business,  nationality  seems  to  have  slipped  into  the  place 
of  honour.  It  has  become  the  one  eloquent,  public, 
intrepid  illusion.  Illusion,  I  mean,  when  it  is  taken  foi 
an  ultimate  good  or  a  mystical  essence,  for  of  course 
nationality  is  a  fact.  People  speak  some  particular 
language  and  are  very  uncomfortable  where  another  is 
spoken  or  where  their  own  is  spoken  differently.  They 
have  habits,  judgments,  assumptions  to  which  they  are 
wedded,  and  a  society  where  all  this  is  unheard  of  shocks 
them  and  puts  them  at  a  galling  disadvantage.  To  ignorant 
people  the  foreigner  as  such  is  ridiculous,  unless  he  is 
superior  to  them  in  numbers  or  prestige,  when  he  becomes 
hateful.  It  is  natural  for  a  man  to  like  to  live  at  home, 
and  to  live  long  elsewhere  without  a  sense  of  exile  is  not 
good  for  his  moral  integrity.  It  is  right  to  feel  a  greater 
kinship  and  affection  for  what  lies  nearest  to  oneself. 
But  this  necessary  fact  and  even  duty  of  nationality  is 
accidental ;  like  age  or  sex  it  is  a  physical  fatality  which 
can  be  made  the  basis  of  specific  and  comely  virtues  ;  but 
it  is  not  an  end  to  pursue,  or  a  flag  to  flaunt,  or  a  privilege 
not  balanced  by  a  thousand  incapacities.  Yet  of  this 
distinction  our  contemporaries  tend  to  make  an  idol, 
perhaps  because  it  is  the  only  distinction  they  feel  they 
have  left. 


A  PEOPLE  once  having  become  industrial  will  hardly  be 
happy  if  sent  back  to  Arcadia ;  it  will  have  formed  busy 
habits  which  it  cannot  relax  without  tedium  ;  it  wilj  have 
developed  a  restlessness  and  avidity  which  will  crave 


matter,  like  any  other  kind  of  hunger.  Every  experiment 
in  living  qualifies  the  initial  possibilities  of  life,  and  the 
moralist  would  reckon  without  his  host  if  he  did  not  allow 
for  the  change  which  forced  exercise  makes  in  instinct, 
adjusting  it  more  or  less  to  extant  conditions  originally, 
perhaps,  unwelcome.  It  is  too  late  for  the  highest  good 
to  prescribe  flying  for  quadrupeds  or  peace  for  the  sea 
waves.  Knowledge  of  what  is  possible  is  the  beginning 
of  happiness. 

The  acceptable  side  of  industrialism,  which  is  supposed 
to  be  inspired  exclusively  by  utility,  is  not  utility  at  all 
but  pure  achievement.  If  we  wish  to  do  such  an  age 
justice  we  must  judge  it  as  we  should  a  child  and  praise 
its  feats  without  inquiring  after  its  purposes.  That  is  its 
own  spirit :  a  spirit  dominant  at  the  present  time,  particu 
larly  in  America,  where  industrialism  appears  most  free 
from  alloy.  There  is  a  curious  delight  in  turning  things 
over,  changing  their  shape,  discovering  their  possibilities, 
making  of  them  some  new  contrivance.  Use,  in  these 
experimental  minds,  as  in  nature,  is  only  incidental.  There 
is  an  irrational  creative  impulse,  a  zest  in  novelty,  in  pro 
gression,  in  beating  the  other  man,  or,  as  they  say,  in  break 
ing  the  record.  There  is  also  a  fascination  in  seeing  the 
world  unbosom  itself  of  ancient  secrets,  obey  man's  coaxing, 
and  take  on  unheard-of  shapes.  The  highest  building,  the 
largest  steamer,  the  fastest  train,  the  book  reaching  the 
widest  circulation  have,  in  America,  a  clear  title  to  respect. 
When  the  just  functions  of  things  are  as  yet  not  discrimin 
ated,  the  superlative  in  any  direction  seems  naturally 
admirable.  Again,  many  possessions,  if  they  do  not  make 
a  man  better,  are  at  least  expected  to  make  his  children 
happier  ;  and  this  pathetic  hope  is  behind  many  exertions. 
An  experimental  materialism,  spontaneous  and  divorced 
from  reason  and  from  everything  useful,  is  also  confused 
in  some  minds  with  traditional  duties ;  and  a  school  of 
popular  hierophants  is  not  lacking  that  turns  it  into  a  sort 
of  religion  and  perhaps  calls  it  idealism.  Impulse  is  more 
visible  in  all  this  than  purpose,  imagination  more  than 
judgment ;  but  it  is  pleasant  for  the  moment  to  abound 
in  invention  and  effort  and  to  let  the  future  cash  the 



IDEAL  patriotism  is  not  secured  when  each  man,  although 
without  natural  eminence,  pursues  his  private  interests. 
What  renders  man  an  imaginative  and  moral  being  is  that 
in  society  he  gives  new  aims  to  his  life  which  could  not 
have  existed  in  solitude  :  the  aims  of  friendship,  religion, 
science,  and  art.  All  these  aims,  in  a  well-knit  state,  are 
covered  by  the  single  passion  of  patriotism  ;  and  then  a 
conception  of  one's  country,  its  history  and  mission,  becomes 
the  touchstone  of  every  ideal  impulse.  Democracy  requires 
this  kind  of  patriotism  in  everybody ;  so  that  if  public 
duty  is  not  to  become  a  sacrifice  imposed  on  the  many  for 
the  sake  of  the  few,  as  in  aristocracy,  the  reason  can  only 
be  that  the  many  covet,  appreciate,  and  appropriate  their 
country's  ideal  glories,  quite  as  much  as  the  favoured 
class  ever  could  in  any  aristocracy. 

Is  this  possible  ?  What  might  happen  if  the  human 
race  were  immensely  improved  and  exalted  there  is  as  yet 
no  saying ;  but  experience  has  given  no  example  of  effi 
cacious  devotion  to  communal  ideals  except  in  small  cities, 
held  together  by  close  military  and  religious  bonds  and 
having  no  important  relations  to  anything  external.  Even 
this  antique  virtue  was  short-lived  and  sadly  thwarted 
by  private  and  party  passion.  Where  public  spirit  has 
held  best,  as  at  Sparta  or  (to  take  a  very  different  type  of 
communal  passion)  among  the  Jesuits,  it  has  been  paid 
for  by  a  notable  lack  of  spontaneity  and  wisdom  ;  such 
inhuman  devotion  to  an  arbitrary  end  has  made  these 
societies  odious.  We  may  say,  therefore,  that  a  zeal 
sufficient  to  destroy  selfishness  is,  as  men  are  now  con 
stituted,  worse  than  selfishness  itself.  In  pursuing  prizes 
for  themselves  people  benefit  their  fellows  more  than  in 
pursuing  such  narrow  and  irrational  ideals  as  alone  seem 
to  be  powerful  in  the  world.  To  ambition,  to  the  love 
of  wealth  and  honour,  to  love  of  a  liberty  which  meant 
opportunity  for  experiment  and  adventure,  we  owe  what 
ever  benefits  we  have  derived  from  Greece  and  Rome,  from 


Italy  and  England.  It  is  doubtful  whether  a  society 
which  offered  no  personal  prizes  would  inspire  effort ;  and 
it  is  still  more  doubtful  whether  that  effort,  if  actually 
stimulated  by  education,  would  be  beneficent.  For  an 
indoctrinated  and  collective  virtue  turns  easily  to  fanati 
cism  ;  it  imposes  irrational  sacrifices  prompted  by  some 
abstract  principle  or  habit  once,  perhaps,  useful ;  but 
that  convention  soon  becomes  superstitious  and  ceases  to 
represent  general  human  excellence. 

Individualism  is  in  one  sense  the  only  possible  ideal ; 
for  whatever  social  order  may  be  most  valuable  can  be 
valuable  only  for  its  effect  on  conscious  individuals.  Man 
is,  of  course,  a  social  animal  and  needs  society,  first  that  he 
may  come  safely  into  being,  and  then  that  he  may  have 
something  interesting  to  do.  But  society  itself  is  no  animal 
and  has  neither  instincts,  interests,  nor  ideals.  To  talk  of 
such  things  is  either  to  speak  metaphorically  or  to  think 
mythically  ;  and  myths,  the  more  currency  they  acquire, 
pass  the  more  easily  into  superstitions.  It  would  be  a  gross 
and  pedantic  superstition  to  venerate  any  form  of  society 
in  itself,  apart  from  the  safety,  breadth,  or  sweetness  which 
it  lent  to  individual  happiness.  If  the  individual  may  be 
justly  subordinated  to  the  state,  not  merely  for  the  sake  of 
a  future  freer  generation,  but  permanently  and  in  the  ideal 
society,  the  reason  is  simply  that  such  subordination  is  a 
part  of  a  man's  natural  devotion  to  things  rational  and 
impersonal,  in  the  presence  of  which  alone  he  can  be  per 
sonally  happy.  Society  in  its  future  and  in  its  past  is  a 
natural  object  of  interest  like  art  or  science  ;  it  exists,  like 
them,  because  only  when  lost  in  such  rational  objects  can 
a  free  soul  be  active  and  immortal.  But  all  these  ideals 
are  terms  in  some  actual  life,  not  alien  ends,  important  to 
nobody,  to  which,  notwithstanding,  everybody  is  to  be 


THE  Jews,  without  dreaming  of  any  inherent  curse  in  being 
finite,  had  found  themselves  often  in  the  sorest  material 
straits.  They  hoped,  like  all  primitive  peoples,  that  relief 


might  come  by  propitiating  the  deity.  They  knew  that 
the  sins  of  the  fathers  were  visited  upon  the  children  even 
to  the  third  and  fourth  generation.  They  had  accepted 
this  idea  of  joint  responsibility  and  vicarious  atonement, 
turning  in  their  unphilosophical  way  this  law  of  nature 
into  a  principle  of  justice.  Meantime  the  failure  of  all 
their  cherished  ambitions  had  plunged  them  into  a  peni 
tential  mood.  Though  in  fact  pious  and  virtuous  to  a 
fault,  they  still  looked  for  repentance — their  own  or  the 
world's — to  save  them.  This  redemption  was  to  be  ac 
complished  in  the  Hebrew  spirit,  through  long-suffering 
and  devotion  to  the  Law,  with  the  Hebrew  solidarity,  by 
vicarious  attribution  of  merits  and  demerits  within  the 
household  of  the  faith. 

Such  a  way  of  conceiving  redemption  was  far  more 
dramatic,  poignant,  and  individual  than  the  Neo-Platonic  ; 
hence  it  was  far  more  popular  and  better  fitted  to  be  a 
nucleus  for  religious  devotion.  However  much,  therefore, 
Christianity  may  have  insisted  on  renouncing  the  world, 
the  flesh,  and  the  devil,  it  always  kept  in  the  background 
this  perfectly  Jewish  and  pre-rational  craving  for  a  delect 
able  promised  land.  The  journey  might  be  long  and  through 
a  desert,  but  milk  and  honey  were  to  flow  in  the  oasis 
beyond.  Had  renunciation  been  fundamental  or  revulsion 
from  nature  complete,  there  would  have  been  no  much- 
trumpeted  last  judgment  and  no  material  kingdom  of 
heaven.  The  renunciation  was  only  temporary  and  partial ; 
the  revulsion  was  only  against  incidental  evils.  Despair 
touched  nothing  but  the  present  order  of  the  world,  though 
at  first  it  took  the  extreme  form  of  calling  for  its  immediate 
destruction.  This  was  the  sort  of  despair  and  renuncia 
tion  that  lay  at  the  bottom  of  Christian  repentance  ;  while 
hope  in  a  new  order  of  this  world,  or  of  one  very  like  it, 
lay  at  the  bottom  of  Christian  joy.  A  temporary  sacrifice,  it 
was  thought,  and  a  partial  mutilation  would  bring  the  spirit 
miraculously  into  a  fresh  paradise.  The  pleasures  nature 
had  grudged  or  punished,  grace  was  to  offer  as  a  reward  for 
faith  and  patience.  The  earthly  life  which  was  vain  as  a 
possession  was  to  be  profitable  as  a  trial.  Normal  experience, 
appropriate  exercise  for  the  spirit,  would  thereafter  begin. 

Christianity  is  thus  a  system  of  postponed  rationalism, 


a  rationalism  intercepted  by  a  supernatural  version  of  the 
conditions  of  happiness.  Its  moral  principle  is  reason — 
the  only  moral  principle  there  is  ;  its  motive  power  is  the 
impulse  and  natural  hope  to  be  and  to  be  happy.  Christi 
anity  merely  renews  and  reinstates  these  universal  prin 
ciples  after  a  first  disappointment  and  a  first  assault  of 
despair,  by  opening  up  new  vistas  of  accomplishment,  new 
qualities  and  measures  of  success.  The  Christian  field  of 
action  being  a  world  of  grace  enveloping  the  world  of 
nature,  many  transitory  reversals  of  acknowledged  values 
may  take  place  in  its  code.  Poverty,  chastity,  humility, 
obedience,  self-sacrifice,  ignorance,  sickness,  and  dirt  may 
all  acquire  a  religious  worth  which  reason,  in  its  direct 
application,  might  scarcely  have  found  in  them  ;  yet  these 
reversed  appreciations  are  merely  incidental  to  a  secret 
rationality,  and  are  justified  on  the  ground  that  human 
nature,  as  now  found,  is  corrupt  and  needs  to  be  purged 
and  transformed  before  it  can  safely  manifest  its  congenital 
instincts  and  become  again  an  authoritative  criterion  of 
values.  In  the  kingdom  of  God  men  would  no  longer  need 
to  do  penance,  for  life  there  would  be  truly  natural  and 
there  the  soul  would  be  at  last  in  her  native  sphere. 

This  submerged  optimism  exists  in  Christianity,  being 
a  heritage  from  the  Jews  ;  and  those  Protestant  com 
munities  that  have  rejected  the  pagan  and  Platonic  elements 
that  overlaid  it  have  little  difficulty  in  restoring  it  to 
prominence.  Not,  however,  without  abandoning  the  soul 
of  the  gospel ;  for  the  soul  of  the  gospel,  though  expressed 
in  the  language  of  Messianic  hopes,  is  really  post-rational. 
It  was  not  to  marry  and  be  given  in  marriage,  or  to  sit  on 
thrones,  or  to  unravel  metaphysical  mysteries,  or  to  enjoy 
any  of  the  natural  delights  renounced  in  this  life,  that 
Christ  summoned  his  disciples  to  abandon  all  they  had  and 
to  follow  him.  There  was  surely  a  deeper  peace  in  his 
self-surrender.  It  was  not  a  new  thing  even  among  the 
Jews  to  use  the  worldly  promises  of  their  exoteric  religion 
as  symbols  for  inner  spiritual  revolutions  ;  and  the  change 
of  heart  involved  in  genuine  Christianity  was  not  a  fresh 
excitation  of  gaudy  hopes,  nor  a  new  sort  of  utilitarian, 
temporary  austerity.  It  was  an  emptying  of  the  will,  in 
respect  to  all  human  desires,  so  that  a  perfect  charity  and 


contemplative  justice,  falling  like  the  Father's  gifts  un 
grudgingly  on  the  whole  creation,  might  take  the  place  of 
ambition,  petty  morality,  and  earthly  desires.  It  was  a 
renunciation  which,  at  least  in  Christ  himself  and  in  his 
more  spiritual  disciples,  did  not  spring  from  disappointed 
illusion  or  lead  to  other  unregenerate  illusions  even  more 
sure  to  be  dispelled  by  events.  It  sprang  rather  from 
a  native  speculative  depth,  a  natural  affinity  to  the  divine 
fecundity,  serenity,  and  sadness  of  the  world.  It  was  the 
spirit  of  prayer,  the  kindliness  and  insight  which  a  pure 
soul  can  fetch  from  contemplation. 

This  mystical  detachment,  supervening  on  the  dogged 
old  Jewish  optimism,  gave  Christianity  a  double  aspect, 
and  had  some  curious  consequences  in  later  times.  Those 
who  were  inwardly  convinced — as  most  religious  minds 
were  under  the  Roman  Empire — that  all  earthly  -things 
were  vanity,  and  that  they  plunged  the  soul  into  an  abyss 
of  nothingness  if  not  of  torment,  could,  in  view  of  brighter 
possibilities  in  another  world,  carry  their  asceticism  and 
their  cult  of  suffering  farther  than  a  purely  negative  system, 
like  the  Buddhistic,  would  have  allowed.  For  a  discipline 
that  is  looked  upon  as  merely  temporary  can  contradict 
nature  more  boldly  than  one  intended  to  take  nature's 
place.  The  hope  of  unimaginable  benefits  to  ensue  could 
drive  religion  to  greater  frenzies  than  it  could  have  fallen 
into  if  its  object  had  been  merely  to  silence  the  will. 
Christianity  persecuted,  tortured,  and  burned.  Like  a 
hound  it  tracked  the  very  scent  of  heresy.  It  kindled 
wars,  and  nursed  furious  hatreds  and  ambitions.  It 
sanctified,  quite  like  Mohammedanism,  extermination  and 
tyranny.  All  this  would  have  been  impossible  if,  like 
Buddhism,  it  had  looked  only  to  peace  and  the  liberation 
of  souls.  It  looked  beyond  ;  it  dreamt  of  infinite  blisses 
and  crowns  it  should  be  crowned  with  before  an  electrified 
universe  and  an  applauding  God.  These  were  rival  baits 
to  those  which  the  world  fishes  with,  and  were  snapped  at, 
when  seen,  with  no  less  avidity.  Man,  far  from  being  freed 
from  his  natural  passions,  was  plunged  into  artificial  ones 
quite  as  violent  and  much  more  disappointing.  Buddhism 
had  tried  to  quiet  a  sick  world  with  anaesthetics ;  Christi 
anity  sought  to  purge  it-  with  fire. 



THE  most  plausible  evidence  which  a  revealed  doctrine  can 
give  of  its  truth  is  the  beauty  and  rationality  of  its  moral 
corollaries.  It  is  instructive  to  observe  that  the  congruity 
of  a  gospel  with  natural  reason  and  common  humanity  is 
regarded  as  the  decisive  mark  of  its  supernatural  origin. 
Indeed,  were  inspiration  not  the  faithful  echo  of  plain 
conscience  and  vulgar  experience,  there  would  be  no  means 
of  distinguishing  it  from  madness.  Whatever  poetic  idea 
a  prophet  starts  with,  in  whatever  intuition  or  analogy  he 
finds  a  hint  of  salvation,  it  is  altogether  necessary  that 
he  should  hasten  to  interpret  his  oracle  in  such  a  manner 
that  it  may  sanction  without  disturbing  the  system  of  indis 
pensable  natural  duties,  although  these  natural  duties,  by 
being  attached  artificially  to  supernatural  dogmas,  may 
take  on  a  different  tone,  justify  themselves  by  a  different 
rhetoric,  and  possibly  suffer  real  transformation  in  some 
minor  particulars.  Systems  of  post-rational  morality  are 
not  original  works  :  they  are  versions  of  natural  morality 
translated  into  different  metaphysical  languages,  each  of 
which  adds  its  peculiar  flavour,  its  own  genius  and  poetry, 
to  the  plain  sense  of  the  common  original. 

Faith  in  the  supernatural  is  a  desperate  wager  made 
by  man  at  the  lowest  ebb  of  his  fortunes ;  it  is  as  far  as 
possible  from  being  the  source  of  that  normal  vitality  which 
subsequently,  if  his  fortunes  mend,  he  may  gradually 
recover.  Under  the  same  religion,  with  the  same  post 
humous  alternatives  and  mystic  harmonies  hanging  about 
them,  different  races,  or  the  same  race  at  different  periods, 
will  manifest  the  most  opposite  moral  characteristics. 
Belief  in  a  thousand  hells  and  heavens  will  not  lift  the 
apathetic  out  of  apathy  or  hold  back  the  passionate  from 
passion  ;  while  a  newly  planted  and  ungalled  community, 
in  blessed  forgetfulness  of  rewards  or  punishments,  of 
cosmic  needs  or  celestial  sanctions,  will  know  how  to  live 
cheerily  and  virtuously  for  life's  own  sake,  putting  to  shame 
those  thin  vaticinations.  To  hope  for  a  second  life,  to  be 


had  gratis,  merely  because  the  present  life  has  lost  its 
savour,  or  to  dream  of  a  different  world,  because  nature 
seems  too  intricate  and  unfriendly,  is  in  the  end  merely 
to  play  with  words  ;  since  the  supernatural  has  no  per 
manent  aspect  or  charm  except  in  so  far  as  it  expresses 
man's  earthly  situation  and  points  to  the  satisfaction  of 
his  natural  interests.  What  keeps  supernatural  morality, 
in  its  better  forms,  within  the  limits  of  sanity  is  the  fact 
that  it  reinstates  in  practice,  under  novel  associations  and 
for  motives  ostensibly  different,  the  very  natural  virtues 
and  hopes  which,  when  seen  to  be  merely  natural,  it  had 
thrown  over  with  contempt.  The  new  dispensation  itself, 
if  treated  in  the  same  spirit,  would  be  no  less  contemptible  ; 
and  what  makes  it  genuinely  esteemed  is  the  restored 
authority  of  those  human  ideals  which  it  expresses  in  a 

The  extent  of  this  moral  restoration,  the  measure  in 
which  nature  is  suffered  to  bloom  in  the  sanctuary, 
determines  the  value  of  post-rational  moralities.  They 
may  preside  over  a  good  life,  personal  or  communal,  when 
their  symbolism,  though  cumbrous,  is  not  deceptive ; 
when  the  supernatural  machinery  brings  man  back  to 
nature  through  mystical  circumlocutions.  The  peculiar 
accent  and  emphasis  which  it  will  not  cease  to  impose 
on  the  obvious  lessons  of  life  need  not  then  repel  the 
wisest  intelligence.  True  sages  and  true  civilizations  can 
accordingly  flourish  under  a  dispensation  nominally  super 
natural  ;  for  that  supernaturalism  may  have  become  a 
mere  form  in  which  imagination  clothes  a  rational  and 
humane  wisdom. 

People  who  speak  only  one  language  have  some  difficulty 
in  conceiving  that  things  should  be  expressed  just  as  well 
in  some  other  ;  a  prejudice  which  does  not  necessarily 
involve  their  mistaking  words  for  things  or  being  practically 
misled  by  their  inflexible  vocabulary.  So  it  constantly 
happens  that  supernatural  systems,  when  they  have  long 
prevailed,  are  defended  by  persons  who  have  only  natural 
interests  at  heart ;  because  these  persons  lack  that 
speculative  freedom  and  dramatic  imagination  which  would 
allow  them  to  conceive  other  moulds  for  morality  and 
happiness  than  those  to  which  a  respectable  tradition  has 


accustomed  them.  Sceptical  statesmen  and  academic 
scholars  sometimes  suffer  from  this  kind  of  numbness  ; 
it  is  intelligible  that  they  should  mistake  the  forms  of 
culture  for  its  principle,  especially  when  their  genius  is 
not  original  and  their  chosen  function  is  to  defend  and 
propagate  the  local  traditions  in  which  their  whole  training 
has  immersed  them.  Indeed,  in  the  political  field,  such 
concern  for  decaying  myths  may  have  a  pathetic  justifica 
tion  ;  for  however  little  the  life  or  dignity  of  man  may  be 
jeopardized  by  changes  in  language,  languages  themselves 
are  not  indifferent  things.  They  may  be  closely  bound  up 
with  the  peculiar  history  and  spirit  of  nations,  and  their  dis 
appearance,  however  necessary  and  on  the  whole  propitious, 
may  mark  the  end  of  some  stirring  chapter  in  the  world's 
history.  Those  whose  vocation  is  not  philosophy  and 
whose  country  is  not  the  world  may  be  pardoned  for 
wishing  to  retard  the  migrations  of  spirit,  and  for  looking 
forward  with  apprehension  to  a  future  in  which  their 
private  enthusiasms  will  not  be  understood. 

The  value  of  post-rational  morality,  then,  depends  on  a 
double  conformity  on  its  part  with  the  life  of  reason.  In 
the  first  place  some  natural  impulse  must  be  retained, 
some  partial  ideal  must  still  be  trusted  and  pursued  by  the 
prophet  of  redemption.  In  the  second  place  the  intuition 
thus  gained  and  exclusively  put  forward  must  be  made 
the  starting-point  for  a  restored  natural  morality.  Other 
wise  the  faith  appealed  to  would  be  worthless  in  its  opera 
tion,  as  well  as  fanciful  in  its  basis,  and  it  could  never 
become  a  mould  for  thought  or  action  in  a  civilized  society. 


PESSIMISM,  and  all  the  moralities  founded  on  despair,  are 
post-rational.  They  are  the  work  of  men  who  more  or  less 
explicitly  have  conceived  the  life  of  reason,  tried  it  at 
least  imaginatively,  and  found  it  wanting.  These  systems 
are  a  refuge  from  an  intolerable  situation  :  they  are  ex 
periments  in  redemption.  As  a  matter  of  fact,  animal 



instincts  and  natural  standards  of  excellence  are  never 
eluded  in  them,  for  no  moral  experience  has  other  terms  ; 
but  the  part  of  the  natural  ideal  which  remains  active 
appears  in  opposition  to  all  the  rest  and,  by  an  intelligible 
illusion,  seems  to  be  no  part  of  that  natural  ideal  because, 
compared  with  the  commoner  passions  on  which  it  reacts, 
it  represents  some  simpler  or  more  attenuated  hope — the 
appeal  to  some  very  humble  or  very  much  chastened 
satisfaction,  or  to  an  utter  change  in  the  conditions  of  life. 

Post-rational  morality  thus  constitutes,  in  intention 
if  not  in  fact,  a  criticism  of  all  experience.  It  thinks  it 
does  not  make,  like  pre-rational  morality,  an  arbitrary 
selection  from  among  co-ordinate  precepts.  It  is  an 
effort  to  subordinate  all  precepts  to  one,  that  points  to 
some  single  eventual  good.  For  it  occurs  to  the  founders  of 
these  systems  that  by  estranging  oneself  from  the  world, 
or  resting  in  the  moment's  pleasure,  or  mortifying  the 
passions,  or  enduring  all  sufferings  in  patience,  or  studying 
a  perfect  conformity  with  the  course  of  affairs,  one  may 
gain  admission  to  some  sort  of  residual  mystical  paradise  ; 
and  this  thought,  once  conceived,  is  published  as  a  revela 
tion  and  accepted  as  a  panacea.  It  becomes  in  consequence 
(for  such  is  the  force  of  nature)  the  foundation  of  elaborate 
institutions  and  elaborate  philosophies,  into  which  the 
contents  of  the  worldly  life  are  gradually  reintroduced. 

When  human  life  is  in  an  acute  crisis,  the  sick  dreams 
that  visit  the  soul  are  the  only  evidence  of  her  continued 
existence.  Through  them  she  still  envisages  a  good  ;  and 
when  the  delirium  passes  and  the  normal  world  gradually 
re-establishes  itself  in  her  regard,  she  attributes  her 
regeneration  to  the  ministry  of  those  phantoms,  a  regenera 
tion  due,  in  truth,  to  the  restored  nutrition  and  circulation 
within  her.  In  this  way  post-rational  systems,  though 
founded  originally  on  despair,  in  a  later  age  that  has 
forgotten  its  disillusions  may  come  to  pose  as  the  only 
possible  basis  of  morality.  The  philosophers  addicted  to 
each  sect,  and  brought  up  under  its  influence,  may  exhaust 
criticism  and  sophistry  to  show  that  all  faith  and  effort 
would  be  vain  unless  their  particular  nostrum  was  accepted  ; 
and  so  a  curious  party  philosophy  arises  in  which,  after 
discrediting  nature  and  reason  in  general,  the  sectary 


puts  forward  some  mythical  echo  of  reason  and  nature  as 
the  one  saving  and  necessary  truth.  The  positive  substance 
of  such  a  doctrine  is  accordingly  pre-rational  and  perhaps 
crudely  superstitious  ;  but  it  is  introduced  and  nominally 
supported  by  a  formidable  indictment  of  physical  and 
moral  science,  so  that  the  wretched  idol  ultimately  offered 
to  our  worship  acquires  a  spurious  halo  and  an  imputed 
majesty  by  being  raised  on  a  pedestal  of  infinite  despair. 


THERE  are  a  myriad  conflicts  in  practice  and  in  thought, 
conflicts  between  rival  possibilities,  knocking  inopportunely 
and  in  vain  at  the  door  of  existence.  Owing  to  the  initial 
disorganization  of  things,  some  demands  continually 
prove  to  be  incompatible  with  others  arising  no  less 
naturally.  Reason  in  such  cases  imposes  real  and  irrepar 
able  sacrifices,  but  it  brings  a  stable  consolation  if  its 
discipline  is  accepted.  Decay,  for  instance,  is  a  moral  and 
aesthetic  evil ;  but  being  a  natural  necessity  it  can  become 
the  basis  for  pathetic  and  magnificent  harmonies,  when 
once  imagination  is  adjusted  to  it.  The  hatred  of  change 
and  death  is  ineradicable  while  life  lasts,  since  it  expresses 
that  self-sustaining  organization  in  a  creature  which  we 
call  its  soul ;  yet  this  hatred  of  change  and  death  is  not 
so  deeply  seated  in  the  nature  of  things  as  are  death  and 
change  themselves,  for  the  flux  is  deeper  than  the  ideal. 
Discipline  may  attune  our  higher  and  more  adaptable  part 
to  the  harsh  conditions  of  existence,  and  the  resulting 
sentiment,  being  the  only  one  which  can  be  maintained 
successfully,  will  express  the  greatest  satisfactions  which 
can  be  reached,  though  not  the  greatest  that  might  be 
conceived  or  desired.  To  be  interested  in  the  changing 
seasons  is,  in  this  middling  zone,  a  happier  state  of  mind 
than  to  be  hopelessly  in  love  with  spring.  Wisdom 
discovers  these  possible  accommodations,  as  circumstances 
impose  them  ;  and  education  ought  to  prepare  men  to 
accept  them. 


It  is  for  want  of  education  and  discipline  that  a  man 
so  often  insists  petulantly  on  his  random  tastes,  instead  of 
cultivating  those  which  might  find  some  satisfaction  in  the 
world  and  might  produce  in  him  some  pertinent  culture. 
Untutored  self-assertion  may  even  lead  him  to  deny  some 
fact  that  should  have  been  patent,  and  plunge  him  into 
needless  calamity.  His  Utopias  cheat  him  in  the  end, 
if  indeed  the  barbarous  taste  he  has  indulged  in  clinging 
to  them  does  not  itself  lapse  before  the  dream  is  half 
formed.  So  men  have  feverishly  conceived  a  heaven  only 
to  find  it  insipid,  and  a  hell  to  find  it  ridiculous.  Theodicies 
that  were  to  demonstrate  an  absolute  cosmic  harmony 
have  turned  the  universe  into  a  tyrannous  nightmare, 
from  which  we  are  glad  to  awake  again  in  this  unintentional 
and  somewhat  tractable  world.  Thus  the  fancies  of 
effeminate  poets  in  violating  science  are  false  to  the  highest 
art,  and  the  products  of  sheer  confusion,  instigated  by  the 
love  of  beauty,  turn  out  to  be  hideous.  A  rational  severity 
in  respect  to  art  simply  weeds  the  garden  ;  it  expresses 
a  mature  aesthetic  choice  and  opens  the  way  to  supreme 
artistic  achievements.  To  keep  beauty  in  its  place  is  to 
make  all  things  beautiful. 


IF  pleasure,  because  it  is  commonly  a  result  of  satisfied 
instinct,  may  by  a  figure  of  speech  be  called  the  aim  of 
impulse,  happiness,  by  a  like  figure,  may  be  called  the  aim 
of  reason.  The  direct  aim  of  reason  is  harmony ;  yet 
harmony,  when  made  to  rule  in  life,  gives  reason  a  noble 
satisfaction  which  we  call  happiness.  Happiness  is  im 
possible  and  even  inconceivable  to  a  mind  without  scope 
and  without  pause,  a  mind  driven  by  craving,  pleasure, 
and  fear.  The  moralists  who  speak  disparagingly  of 
happiness  are  less  sublime  than  they  think.  In  truth 
their  philosophy  is  too  lightly  ballasted,  too  much  fed  on 
prejudice  and  quibbles,  for  happiness  to  fall  within  its 
range.  Happiness  implies  resource  and  security  ;  it  can 
be  achieved  only  by  discipline.  Your  intuitive  moralist 


rejects  discipline,  at  least  discipline  of  the  conscience ; 
and  he  is  punished  by  having  no  lien  on  wisdom.  He 
trusts  to  the  clash  of  blind  forces  in  collision,  being  one  of 
them  himself.  He  demands  that  virtue  should  be  partisan 
and  unjust ;  and  he  dreams  of  crushing  the  adversary  in 
some  physical  cataclysm. 

Such  groping  enthusiasm  is  often  innocent  and  ro 
mantic  ;  it  captivates  us  with  its  youthful  spell.  But 
it  has  no  structure  with  which  to  resist  the  shocks  of 
fortune,  which  it  goes  out  so  jauntily  to  meet.  It  turns 
only  too  often  into  vulgarity  and  worldliness.  A  snow- 
flake  is  soon  a  smudge,  and  there  is  a  deeper  purity  in  the 
diamond.  Happiness  is  hidden  from  a  free  and  casual  will ; 
it  belongs  rather  to  one  chastened  by  a  long  education  and 
unfolded  in  an  atmosphere  of  sacred  and  perfected  institu 
tions.  It  is  discipline  that  renders  men  rational  and 
capable  of  happiness,  by  suppressing  without  hatred  what 
needs  to  be  suppressed  to  attain  a  beautiful  naturalness. 
Discipline  discredits  the  random  pleasures  of  illusion, 
hope,  and  triumph,  and  substitutes  those  which  are  self- 
reproductive,  perennial,  and  serene,  because  they  express 
an  equilibrium  maintained  with  reality.  So  long  as  the 
result  of  endeavour  is  partly  unforeseen  and  unintentional, 
so  long  as  the  will  is  partly  blind,  the  life  of  reason  is 
still  swaddled  in  ignominy  and  the  animal  barks  in  the 
midst  of  human  discourse.  Wisdom  and  happiness  consist 
in  having  recast  natural  energies  in  the  furnace  of  experi 
ence.  Nor  has  this  experience  merely  a  repressive  force. 
It  enshrines  the  successful  expressions  of  spirit  as  well 
as  the  shocks  and  vetoes  of  circumstance ;  it  enables  a 
man  to  know  himself  in  knowing  the  world  and  to  dis 
cover  his  ideal  by  the  very  ring,  true  or  false,  of  fortune's 

It  seldom  occurs  to  modern  moralists  that  theirs  is  the 
science  of  all  good,  and  the  art  of  attaining  it ;  they  think 
only  of  some  set  of  categorical  precepts  or  some  theory  of 
moral  sentiments,  abstracting  altogether  from  the  ideals 
reigning  in  society,  in  science,  and  in  art.  They  deal  with 
the  secondary  question,  What  ought  I  to  do  ?  without 
having  answered  the  primary  question,  What  ought  to  be  ? 
They  attach  morals  to  religion  rather  than  to  politics,  and 


this  religion  unhappily  long  ago  ceased  to  be  wisdom 
expressed  in  fancy  in  order  to  become  superstition  overlaid 
with  reasoning.  The  basis  is  laid  in  authority  rather  than 
in  human  nature,  and  the  goal  in  salvation  rather  than  in 

It  is  in  the  nature  of  things  that  those  who  are  incapable 
of  happiness  should  have  no  idea  of  it.  Happiness  is  not 
for  wild  animals,  who  can  only  oscillate  between  apathy 
and  passion.  To  be  happy,  even  to  conceive  happiness, 
you  must  be  reasonable  or  (if  Nietzsche  prefers  the  word), 
you  must  be  tamed.  You  must  have  taken  the  measure  of 
your  powers,  tasted  the  fruits  of  your  passions,  and  learned 
your  place  in  the  world  and  what  things  in  it  can  really 
serve  you.  To  be  happy  you  must  be  wise.  This  happiness 
is  sometimes  found  instinctively,  and  then  the  rudest 
fanatic  can  hardly  fail  to  see  how  lovely  it  is  ;  but  some 
times  it  comes  of  having  learned  something  by  experience 
(which  empirical  people  never  do)  and  involves  some 
chastening  and  renunciation  ;  but  it  is  not  less  sweet  for 
having  this  touch  of  holiness  about  it,  and  the  spirit  of  it 
is  healthy  and  beneficent.  The  nature  of  happiness, 
therefore,  dawns  upon  philosophers  when  their  wisdom 
begins  to  report  the  lessons  of  experience  ;  an  a  priori 
philosophy  can  have  no  inkling  of  it. 


WE  commonly  become  philosophers  only  after  despairing 
of  instinctive  happiness,  yet  there  is  nothing  impossible 
in  the  attainment  of  detachment  through  other  channels. 
The  immense  is  sublime  as  well  as  the  terrible  ;  and  mere 
infinity  of  the  object,  like  its  hostile  nature,  can  have  the 
effect  of  making  the  mind  recoil  upon  itself.  Infinity, 
like  hostility,  removes  us  from  things,  and  makes  us  con 
scious  of  our  independence.  The  simultaneous  view  of 
many  things,  innumerable  attractions  felt  together,  produce 
equilibrium  and  indifference.  Let  an  infinite  panorama 
be  suddenly  unfolded  ;  the  will  is  instantly  paralysed,  and 


the  heart  choked.  It  is  impossible  to  desire  everything 
at  once,  and  when  all  is  offered  and  approved,  it  is  impossible 
to  choose  everything.  In  this  suspense,  the  mind  soars 
into  a  kind  of  heaven,  benevolent  but  unmoved. 

This  is  the  attitude  of  all  minds  to  which  breadth  of 
interest  or  length  of  years  has  brought  balance  and  dignity. 
The  sacerdotal  quality  of  old  age  comes  from  this  same 
sympathy  in  disinterestedness.  Old  men  full  of  hurry 
and  passion  appear  as  fools,  because  we  understand  that 
their  experience  has  not  left  enough  mark  upon  their 
brain  to  qualify  with  the  memory  of  other  goods  any 
object  that  may  be  now  presented.  We  cannot  venerate 
any  one  in  whom  appreciation  is  not  divorced  from  desire. 
And  this  elevation  and  detachment  of  the  heart  need  not 
follow  upon  any  great  disappointment  ;  it  is  finest  and 
sweetest  where  it  is  the  gradual  fruit  of  many  affections 
now  merged  and  mellowed  into  a  natural  piety.  Indeed, 
we  are  able  to  frame  our  idea  of  the  Deity  on  no  other 

While  in  contemplating  the  beautiful  we  find  the  per 
fection  of  life  in  our  harmony  with  the  object,  in  contem 
plating  the  sublime  we  find  a  purer  and  more  inalienable 
perfection  by  defying  all  such  harmony.  The  surprised 
enlargement  of  vision,  the  sudden  escape  from  our  ordinary 
interests  and  the  identification  of  ourselves  with  some 
thing  permanent  and  superhuman,  something  much  more 
abstract  and  inalienable  than  our  changing  personality, 
all  this  carries  us  away  from  the  private  tragedies  before 
us,  and  raises  us  into  a  sort  of  ecstasy.  We  escape  from 
ourselves  altogether,  and  live  as  it  were  in  the  object, 
energizing  in  imitation  of  its  movement,  and  saying,  "  Be 
thou  me,  impetuous  one  1 "  This  passage  into  what 
comes  before  us,  to  live  its  life,  is  indeed  a  characteristic 
of  all  perfect  contemplation.  But  when  in  thus  translating 
ourselves  we  rise  and  play  a  higher  personage,  feeling 
the  exhilaration  of  a  life  freer  and  wilder  than  our  own, 
then  the  experience  is  one  of  sublimity.  The  emotion 
comes  not  from  the  accidents  we  endure,  but  from  the 
powers  we  conceive ;  we  fail  to  sympathize  with  the 
struggling  sailors  because  we  sympathize  too  much  with 
the  wind  and  waves.  And  this  mystical  cruelty  can 


extend  even  to  ourselves ;  we  can  so  feel  the  fascination 
of  the  cosmic  forces  that  engulf  us  as  to  take  a  fierce  joy 
in  the  thought  of  our  own  destruction.  We  can  identify 
ourselves  with  the  abstractest  essence  of  reality,  and,  raised 
to  that  height,  despise  the  human  accidents  of  our  own 
nature.  Lord,  we  say,  though  thou  slay  me,  yet  will  I 
trust  in  thee.  The  sense  of  suffering  disappears  in  the 
sense  of  life  and  the  imagination  overwhelms  the  under 

If  we  could  count  the  stars,  we  should  not  weep  before 
them.  While  we  think  we  can  change  the  drama  of 
history,  and  of  our  own  lives,  we  are  not  awed  by  our 
destiny.  But  when  the  evil  is  irreparable,  when  our  life 
is  lived,  a  strong  spirit  has  the  sublime  resource  of  standing 
at  bay  and  of  surveying  almost  from  the  other  world  the 
vicissitudes  of  this. 


IF  we  attempt  to  remove  from  life  all  its  evils,  as  the 
popular  imagination  has  done  at  times,  we  shall  find  little 
but  aesthetic  pleasures  remaining  to  constitute  unalloyed 
happiness.  The  satisfactions  of  passion  and  appetite,  in 
which  we  chiefly  place  earthly  happiness,  themselves 
take  on  an  aesthetic  tinge  when  we  remove  ideally  the 
possibility  of  loss  or  variation.  What  could  the  Olympians 
honour  in  one  another  or  the  seraphim  worship  in  God 
except  the  embodiment  of  eternal  attributes,  of  essences 
which,  like  beauty,  make  us  happy  only  in  contemplation  ? 
The  glory  of  heaven  could  not  be  otherwise  symbolized 
than  by  light  and  music.  Even  the  knowledge  of  truth, 
which  the  most  sober  theologians  made  the  essence  of 
the  beatific  vision,  is  an  aesthetic  delight ;  for  when  know 
ledge  of  the  truth  has  no  further  practical  utility,  the 
truth  becomes  a  landscape.  The  delight  in  it  is  imaginative 
and  the  value  of  it  aesthetic. 

This  reduction  of  all  values  to  immediate  appreciations, 
to  sensuous  or  vital  activities,  has  struck  even  the  minds 
most  stubbornly  moralistic.  Only  for  them,  instead  of 


leading  to  the  liberation  of  aesthetic  goods  from  practical 
entanglements  and  their  establishment  as  the  only  pure 
and  positive  values  in  life,  this  analysis  has  led  rather 
to  the  denial  of  all  pure  and  positive  goods  altogether. 
Such  thinkers  naturally  assume  that  moral  values  are 
intrinsic  and  supreme  ;  and  since  many  of  these  moral 
values  would  not  arise  but  for  the  existence  or  imminence 
of  physical  evils,  they  embrace  the  paradox  that  without 
evil  no  good  whatever  is  conceivable. 

The  harsh  requirements  of  apologetics  have  no  doubt 
helped  them  to  this  position,  from  which  one  breath  of 
spring  or  the  sight  of  one  well-begotten  creature  should 
be  enough  to  dislodge  them.  Their  ethical  temper  and 
the  fetters  of  their  servile  imagination  forbid  them  to 
reconsider  their  original  assumption  and  to  conceive  that 
morality  is  a  means  and  not  an  end ;  that  it  is  the  price 
of  human  non-adaptation,  and  the  consequence  of  the 
original  sin  of  unfitness.  It  is  the  art  of  compressing 
human  conduct  within  the  narrow  limits  of  the  safe  and 
possible.  Remove  danger,  remove  pain,  remove  the  occa 
sion  of  pity,  and  the  need  of  morality  is  gone.  To  say 
"  thou  shalt  not  "  would  then  be  an  impertinence. 

But  this  elimination  of  precept  would  not  be  a  cessation 
of  life.  The  senses  would  still  be  open,  the  instincts  would 
still  operate,  and  lead  all  creatures  to  the  haunts  and 
occupations  that  befitted  them.  The  variety  of  nature  and 
the  infinity  of  art,  with  the  companionship  of  our  fellows, 
would  fill  the  leisure  of  that  ideal  existence.  These  are 
the  elements  of  our  positive  happiness,  the  things  which, 
amid  a  thousand  vexations  and  vanities,  make  the  clear 
profit  of  living. 

The  odious  circumstances  which  make  the  attainment 
of  many  goods  conditional  on  the  perpetration  of  some 
evil,  and  which  punish  every  virtue  by  some  incapacity 
or  some  abuse, — these  odious  circumstances  cannot  rob 
any  good  of  its  natural  sweetness,  nor  all  goods  together 
of  their  conceptual  harmony.  To  the  heart  that  has 
felt  it  and  that  is  the  true  judge,  every  loss  is  irretrievable 
and  every  joy  indestructible. 

When  we  attain  perfection  of  function  we  lose  con 
sciousness  of  the  medium,  to  become  more  clearly  conscious 


of  the  result.  The  eye  that  does  its  duty  gives  no  report 
of  itself  and  has  no  sense  of  muscular  tension  or  weariness  ; 
but  it  gives  all  the  brighter  and  steadier  image  of  the 
object  seen.  Consciousness  is  not  lost  when  focussed, 
and  the  labour  of  vision  is  abolished  in  its  fruition.  So  the 
musician,  could  he  play  so  divinely  as  to  be  unconscious 
of  his  body,  his  instrument,  and  the  very  lapse  of  time, 
would  be  only  the  more  absorbed  in  the  harmony,  more 
completely  master  of  its  unities  and  beauty.  At  such 
moments  the  body's  long  labour  at  last  brings  forth  the 
soul.  Life  from  its  inception  is  simply  some  partial 
natural  harmony  raising  its  voice  and  bearing  witness  to 
its  own  existence  ;  to  perfect  that  harmony  is  to  round 
out  and  intensify  that  life.  This  is  the  very  secret  of 
power,  of  joy,  of  intelligence.  Not  to  have  understood 
it  is  to  have  passed  through  life  without  understanding 

The  perfection  thus  revealed  is  relative  to  our  nature 
and  faculties  ;  if  it  were  not,  it  could  have  no  value  for  us. 
It  is  revealed  to  us  in  brief  moments,  but  it  is  not  for  that 
reason  an  unstable  or  fantastic  thing.  Human  attention 
inevitably  flickers ;  we  survey  things  in  succession,  and 
our  acts  of  synthesis  and  our  realization  of  fact  are  only 
occasional.  This  is  the  tenure  of  all  our  possessions  ;  we 
are  not  uninterruptedly  conscious  of  ourselves,  our  physical 
environment,  our  ruling  passions,  or  our  deepest  conviction. 
What  wonder,  then,  that  we  are  not  constantly  conscious 
of  that  perfection  which  is  the  implicit  ideal  of  all  our 
preferences  and  desires  ?  We  view  it  only  in  parts,  as 
passion  or  perception  successively  directs  our  attention  to 
its  various  elements.  Some  of  us  never  try  to  conceive 
it  in  its  totality.  Yet  our  whole  life  is  an  act  of  worship 
to  this  unknown  divinity  ;  every  heartfelt  prayer  is  offered 
before  one  or  another  of  its  images. 

This  ideal  of  perfection  varies,  indeed,  but  only  with 
the  variations  of  our  nature  of  which  it  is  the  counterpart 
and  entelechy.  There  is  perhaps  no  more  frivolous  notion 
than  that  a  good,  once  attained,  loses  all  its  value.  The 
instability  of  our  attention,  the  need  of  rest  and  repair 
in  our  organs,  makes  a  round  of  objects  necessary  to  our 
minds ;  but  we  turn  from  a  beautiful  thing,  as  from  a 


truth  or  a  friend,  only  to  return  incessantly,  and  with 
increasing  appreciation.  Nor  do  we  lose  all  the  benefit 
of  our  achievements  in  the  intervals  between  our  vivid 
realizations  of  what  we  have  gained.  The  tone  of  the 
mind  is  permanently  raised  ;  and  we  live  with  that  general 
sense  of  steadfastness  and  resource,  which  is  perhaps  the 
kernel  of  happiness.  Knowledge,  affection,  religion,  and 
beauty  are  not  less  constant  influences  in  a  man's  life 
because  his  consciousness  of  them  is  intermittent.  Even 
when  absent,  they  fill  the  chambers  of  the  mind  with  a 
kind  of  fragrance.  They  have  a  continual  efficacy,  as 
well  as  a  perennial  worth. 


BEAUTY  as  we  feel  it  is  something  indescribable :  what 
it  is  or  what  it  means  can  never  be  said.  It  is  an  affection 
of  the  soul,  a  consciousness  of  joy  and  security,  a  pang,  a 
dream,  a  pure  pleasure.  It  suffuses  an  object  without 
telling  why  ;  nor  has  it  any  need  to  ask  the  question.  It 
justifies  itself  and  the  vision  it  gilds  ;  nor  is  there  any 
meaning  in  seeking  for  a  cause  of  it,  in  this  inward  sense. 
Beauty  exists  for  the  same  reason  that  the  object  which 
is  beautiful  exists,  or  the  world  in  which  that  object  lies, 
or  we  that  look  upon  both.  It  is  an  experience :  there 
is  nothing  more  to  say  about  it.  Indeed,  if  we  look  at 
things  teleologically,  and  as  they  ultimately  justify  them 
selves  to  the  heart,  beauty  is  of  all  things  what  least  calls 
for  explanation.  For  matter  and  space  and  time  and 
principles  of  reason  and  of  evolution,  all  are  ultimately 
brute,  unaccountable  data.  We  may  describe  what 
actually  is,  but  it  might  have  been  otherwise,  and  the 
mystery  of  its  being  is  as  baffling  and  dark  as  ever. 

But  we, — the  minds  that  ask  all  questions  and  judge 
of  the  validity  of  all  answers, — we  are  not  ourselves  inde 
pendent  of  this  world  in  which  we  live.  We  sprang  from 
it,  and  our  relations  in  it  determine  all  our  instincts  and 
satisfactions.  This  final  questioning  and  sense  of  mystery 


is  an  unsatisfied  craving  which  nature  has  her  way  of  stilling. 
We  ask  for  reasons  only  when  we  are  surprised.  If  we 
had  no  expectations  we  should  have  no  surprises.  If  our 
spontaneous  thoughts  came  to  run  in  harmony  with  the 
course  of  nature,  if  our  expectations  were  then  continually 
fulfilled,  the  sense  of  mystery  would  vanish.  We  should 
be  incapable  of  asking  why  the  world  existed  or  had  such 
a  nature,  just  as  we  are  now  little  inclined  to  ask  why 
anything  is  right,  but  mightily  disinclined  to  give  up  asking 
why  anything  is  wrong. 

This  satisfaction  of  our  reason,  due  to  the  harmony 
between  our  nature  and  our  experience,  is  partially  realized 
already.  The  sense  of  beauty  is  its  realization.  When 
our  senses  and  imagination  find  what  they  crave,  when 
the  world  so  shapes  itself  or  so  moulds  the  mind  that  the 
correspondence  between  them  is  perfect,  then  perception 
is  pleasure,  and  existence  needs  no  apology.  A  grateful 
environment  is  a  substitute  for  happiness.  The  reason 
and  the  heart  remain  deeply  unsatisfied.  But  the  eye 
finds  in  nature,  and  in  some  supreme  achievements  of  art, 
constant  and  fuller  satisfaction.  For  the  eye  is  quick, 
and  seems  to  have  been  more  docile  to  the  education  of 
life  than  the  heart  or  the  reason  of  man,  and  able  sooner 
to  adapt  itself  to  the  reality.  Beauty  therefore  seems  to 
be  the  clearest  manifestation  of  perfection,  and  the  best 
evidence  of  its  possibility.  If  perfection  is,  as  it  should 
be,  the  ultimate  justification  of  being,  we  may  understand 
the  ground  of  the  moral  dignity  of  beauty.  Beauty  is  a 
pledge  of  the  possible  conformity  between  the  soul  and 
nature,  and  consequently  a  ground  of  faith  in  the  prevalence 
of  the  good. 


THE  passages  from  Mr.  Santayana's  works  are  from  the  following: 

The  Sense  of  Beauty.     New  York.     Charles  Scribner's  Sons.     1896. 

London.     Constable  &  Co.     (S.  of  B.) 

Interpretations    of    Poetry    and    Religion.     New    York.      Charles 
Scribner's  Sons.     1900.     London.     Constable  &  Co.    (P.R.) 
Fhe  Life  of  Reason,  or  the  Phases  of  Human  Progress.     New  York. 
Charles  Scribner's  Sons.     1905.     London.     Constable  &  Co. 
I.  Introduction  and  Reason  in  Common  Sense.     (R.  i.) 
II.  Reason  in  Society.     (R.  n.) 

III.  Reason  in  Religion.     (R.  in.) 

IV.  Reason  in  Art.     (R.  iv.) 
V.  Reason  in  Science.     (R.  v.) 

Three  Philosophical  Poets.  Lucretius,  Dante,  and  Goethe.  Cam 
bridge,  Harvard  University.  London.  Humphrey  Milford. 
1910.  (Three  Poets.) 

Spinoza's  Ethics  and  "  De  Intellectus  Emendatione."  Translated  by 
A.  Boyle,  with  Introduction  by  Professor  G.  Santayana. 
London.  J.  M.  Dent  &  Sons,  Ltd.  1910.  Everyman's 
Library.  (Spinoza.) 

Winds  of  Doctrine.  Studies  in  Contemporary  Opinion.  London. 
J.  M.  Dent  &  Sons,  Ltd.  1913.  (Winds.) 

Egotism  in  German  Philosophy.  London.  J.  M.  Dent  &  Sons,  Ltd. 
1916.  (Egotism.) 

1.  Spirit  the  Judge.     5.  of  B.  pp.  3-4. 

2.  The  Origin  of  Morals,     (i)  Spinoza,  p.  xv;   (2)  R.  iv.  p.  208; 

(3)  P.R.  iv.  pp.  28-9. 

3.  Ideals,     (i)  R.  v.  p.  209  ;  (2)  Three  Poets,  p.  98  ;  (3)  P.R.  p.  246, 

4.  Intellectual  Ambition.     P.R.  pp.  1-3. 

5.  The  Suppressed  Madness  of  Sane  Men.     R.  I.  pp.  5°-52. 

6.  The  Birth  of  Reason.     R.  I.  pp.  40,  44,  42,  45-7. 

7.  The  Difference  Reason  makes.     R.  i.  pp.  59,  57-8,  53-4,  60. 

8.  Body  and  Mind.     R.  i.  pp.  205-13. 

9.  The  Self.     R.  iv.  pp.  8-10. 

10.  Self-Consciousness,  Vanity,  and  Fame.     R.  n.  pp.  140-46. 

11.  False  Moral  Perspectives.     R.  i.  pp.  248-51,  253-5,  252. 

12.  Pain.     R.  i.  pp.  224-5. 

13.  What  People  will  put  up  with.     P.R.  p.  242. 



14.  Advantages  of  a  Long  Childhood.     R.  n.  pp.  37,  36. 

15.  The  Transitive  Force  of  Knowledge.     R.  I.  pp.  78,  81,  130. 

16.  Knowledge  of  Nature  is  Symbolic,     (i)  R.  n.  pp.  201-4  »    (2) 

Egotism,  p.  6  ;    (3)  Winds,  pp.  183-4. 

17.  Relativity  of  Science.     R.  v.  pp.  307-9. 

18.  Mathematics  and  Morals.     R.  v.  pp.  194-5. 

19.  Mind-Reading.     R.  i.  pp.  152-4,  149-50,  175-6. 

20.  Knowledge  of  Character.     R.  i.  pp.  155-8. 

21.  Comradeship.     R.  n.  pp.  147-9. 

22.  Love.     R.  u.  pp.  26-34. 

23.  Imaginative  Nature  of  Religion,     (i)  R.  in.  pp.  3-6;    (2)  R.  i 

pp.  12 1-3  ;   (3)  R.  m.  p.  52  ;   (4)  Egotism,  pp.  154-5. 

24.  Prosaic  Misunderstandings.     P.R.  pp.  v-ix. 

25.  The  Haste  to  Believe,     (i)  R.  in.  p.  131 ;  (2)  R.  in.  p.  24. 

26.  Pathetic  Notions  of  God.     (i)  R.  in.  p.  34;  (2)  R.  iv.  p.  175; 

(3)  P.R.  p.  47. 

27.  Greek  Religion.     Three  Poets,  pp.  63-4. 

28.  Original  Christian  Faith.     Winds,  pp.  33-8. 

29.  The  Convert.     P.R.  pp.  85-6,  285,  88. 

30.  Christian  Doctrine  a  Moral  Allegory.     P.R.  pp.  90-98. 

31.  The  Christian  Epic.     R.  in.  pp.  89-98. 

32.  Pagan  Custom  infused  into  Christianity.     R.  in.  99-104. 

33.  Christ  and  the  Virgin.     5.  of  B.  pp.  189-91. 

34.  Orthodoxy  and  Heresy.     P.R.  pp.  57,  113-17. 

35.  Protestantism,     (i)    R.  m.  pp.  115-18;     (2)  P.R.  112-13;  (3) 

R.  in.  pp.  125-6  ;   (4)  R.  i.  pp.  n-12. 

36.  Piety.     R.  in.  pp.  179,  184-5,  189-92. 

37.  Spirituality.     R.  m.  pp.  193-5. 

38.  Prayer.     R.  m.  pp.  44-8. 

39.  The  Fear  of  Death.     Three  Poets,  pp.  51-4. 

40.  Psychic  Phenomena.     R.  in.  pp.  232-4. 

41.  A  Future  Life.     R.  in.  pp.  243-7. 

42.  Disinterested    Interest    in    Life,     (i)    Three    Poets,    pp.  54-6; 

(2)  R.  m.  pp.  254-5. 

43.  Platonic  Love.     P.R.  pp.  137-41. 

44.  Ideal  Immortality,     (i)  R  .in.  pp.  260-67,  268-73;  (2)  Spinoza, 

pp.  xviii-xix. 

45.  Justification  of  Art.     R.  iv.  pp.  166-74. 

46.  The  Place  of  Art  in  Moral  Economy.     R.  iv.  pp.  181-4,  I77'^- 

47.  Rareness  of  ^Esthetic  Feeling.     R.  iv.  pp.  193-5. 

48.  Art  and  Happiness.     R.  iv.  pp.  222-3. 

49.  Utility  and  Beauty.     5.  of  B.  pp.  215-21. 

50.  Glimpses  of  Perfection.     5.  of  B.  pp.  260-62. 

51.  Mere  Art.     R.  iv.  pp.  211-12. 

52.  Costliness.     S.  of  B.  pp.  211-14. 

53.  The  Stars.     S.  of  B.  pp.  100-106. 

54.  Music,     (i)   S.  of  B.  pp.    69-70;    (2)  R.    iv.  pp.  45-9,  52-6; 

(3)  Egotism,  p.  161  ;    (4)  R.  iv.  pp.  56-60. 

55.  The  Essence  of  Literature.     R.  iv.  pp.  82-4. 

56.  The  Need  of  Poetry.     P.R.  pp.  268-70. 

NOTE  289 

57.  Poetry  and  Philosophy.     Three  Poets,  pp.  8,  10-14,  123-4,  I42- 

58.  The  Elements  of  Poetry.     P.R.  pp.  258-63. 

59.  Poetry  and  Prose.     R.  iv.  pp.  99-104. 

60.  Primary  Poetry.     R.  iv.  pp.  87-94,  201-2. 

61.  The  Supreme  Poet.     Three  Poets,  pp.  212-15. 

62.  Against  Prying  Biographers.     Three  Poets,  p.  20. 

63.  The  Dearth  of  Great  Men.     (i)  Winds,  pp.  20-22,  109  ;   (2)  R.  i. 

pp.  9-10. 

64.  The  Intellect  out  of  Fashion.     Winds,  pp.  17-20,  23-4. 

65.  Essence  and  Existence.     R.  i.  pp.  180-82,  171-2. 

66.  Malicious  Psychology.     R.  i.  pp.  84-6. 

67.  On  "  Esse  est  percipi."     R.  i.  pp.  112-14. 

68.  Kant,     (i)  Egotism,  pp.  54-60  ;    (2)  R.  i.  pp.  94-7. 

69.  Transcendentalism,     (i)   R.  v.  p.   312;    (2)   R.  i.  pp.  29-30; 

(3)  P.R.  pp.  219-20;  (4)  .R.  i.  pp.  219-20;   (5)  P.R.  p.  248; 
(6)  Egotism,  pp.  167-8. 

70.  Precarious  Rationalisms.     R.  i.  pp.  198-202. 

71.  Unjust  Judgments,     (i)  R.  I.  pp.  106,  108-9  ',  (-}  Egotism,  p.  116 

(3)  R.  ii.  p.  61  ;    (4)  R.  i.  p.  222. 

72.  Modern  Poetry.     P.R.  pp.  166-70. 

73.  The  Unhappiness  of  Artists.     S.  of  B.  pp.  63-5. 

74.  Poetry  of  Latin  Peoples.     P.R.  pp.  131-2. 

75.  Dante.     Three  Poets,  pp.  132-5. 

76.  Absence  of  Religion  in  Shakespeare.     P.R.  pp.  153-6. 

77.  Romantic  Ignorance  of  Self,     (i)  P.R.  p.   185;    (2)  Egotism, 

p.  137  ;    (3)  R.  ii.  p.  193. 

78.  The  Barbarian.     R.  i.  pp.  262,  231-3. 

79.  Romanticism.     Three  Poets,  pp.  143-8,  196-9. 

80.  The  Politics  of  Faust.     Three  Poets,  pp.  181-5. 

81.  Emerson,     (i)  P.R.  pp.  231-3  ;    (2)  Winds,  pp.  197-200. 

82.  Shelley.     Winds,  pp.  158-60. 

83.  Browning.     P.R.  pp.  192-4,  199-207. 

84.  Nietzsche.     Egotism,  pp.  127,  134-5. 

85.  Intrinsic  Values.     Egotism,  pp.  109-11. 

86.  Heathenism.     Egotism,  pp.  144-9. 

87.  Moral  Neutrality  of  Materialism.     Three  Poets,  pp.  32-4. 

88.  Value  Irrational.     S.  of  B.  pp.  16-20. 

89.  Emotions  of  the  Materialist,     (i)  R.  v.  pp.  89-94  •'   (2)  Spinoza, 

p.  viii. 

90.  Sadness  of  Naturalism,      (i)  R.  i.  pp.  189-93;   (2)  P.R.  p.  21; 

(3)  R.  iv.  p.  169;  (4)  Three  Poets,  pp.  210-11. 

91.  Happiness  in  Disillusion.     P.R.  pp.  249-50;    R.  II.  p.  195- 

92.  The  True  Place  of  Materialism,     (i)  Three  Poets,  p.  27  ;  (2)  R.  i. 

pp.  16-17  ;    (3)  Egotism,  p.  70. 

93.  Intuitive  Morality.     R.  v.  pp.  218-23. 

94.  Relativity  of  Values,     (i)  Winds,  pp.  151-2;   (2)  5.  of  B.  pp. 

41-2;    (3)  R.  i.  p.  32. 

95.  Authority  of  Reason  in  Morals.     R.  v.  pp.  231-2,  249-50,  244-5, 

248,  266-8. 

96.  Pleasures  Ingenuous,     (i)  S.  of  B.  p.  39  ;   (2)  R.  iv.  pp.  168-9. 


97.  The  Lower  Senses.     S.  of  13.  pp.  66-8. 

98.  Pleasure  and  Conscience.     S.  of  B.  pp.  23-5. 

99.  The  Worth  of  Pleasures  and  Pains.     R.  i.  pp.  236-9,  55-6. 

100.  The  Voluptuary  and  the  Worldling.     R.  in.  pp.  200-204,  210. 

101.  Moral  War.     R.  v.  pp.  233-8. 

102.  Origin  of  Tyranny.     R.  n.  pp.  70-72,  80,  79. 

103.  War.     R.  n.  pp.  81-5. 

104.  Patriotism,     (i)  R.  in.  pp.   186-7;   (2)  R-  u-  PP-   I7I'4I   (3) 

Winds,  p.  6. 

105.  Industrial  Idealism,     (i)  R.  iv.  p.  21  ;   (2)  7?.  n.  pp.  67-8. 

106.  Collectivism.     R.  n.  pp.  133-4,  52'3- 

107.  Christian  Morality.     R.  V.  pp.  281-6. 

108.  Supernaturalism.     R.  v.  pp.  290-91,  297-300. 

109.  Post-Rational  Morality.     R.  v.  pp.  266-8. 
no.  The  Need  of  Discipline.     R.  iv.  pp.  188-90. 

in.  Happiness,     (i)  R.  v.  pp.  251-3  ;   (2)  R.  i.  p.  30  ;   (3)  Egotism, 
pp.  152-3. 

112.  Detachment.     S.  of  B.  pp.  241-2,  244-5. 

113.  The  Profit  of  Living,     (i)  5.  of  B.  pp.  29-31  ;  (2)  P.R.  p.  101; 

(3)  R.  I.  pp.  229-30  ;    (4)  5.  of  B.  pp.  263-4. 

114.  Beauty  a  Hint  of  Happiness.     S.  oj  B.  pp.  267-70.